MATTHEWS – Matthews will soon be home to the district’s second middle college campus, giving high school students in the area a chance to earn dual credits.
The new school, to be placed on the Central Piedmont Community College’s Levine Campus, will be the second location for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ middle college program that allows students in 11th and 12th grades to earn their high school diploma and college credits at the same time. Cato Middle College High, located at the CPCC Cato campus, is currently the district’s only dual-credit location, which has seen a 100 percent success rate, according to district officials. It is currently in its fourth year of operation.
“The Cato Middle College is a high-achieving program. Since that was so successful, we thought we would look into other campuses,” said Richard Zollinger, vice president for learning & workforce development at CPCC.
During the Aug. 27 CMS Board of Education meeting, the school board approved nearly $771,500 to build a modular on the CPCC Levine Campus to expand the middle college program and to offer more academic choices for students. The new modular facility, called The Middle College at the Levine Campus, will include eight classrooms, a principal’s office, reception/secretary space, a conference room, guidance office and work room and is scheduled for completion by December.
Currently, about 50 to 60 Levine Middle College students are attending the Cato campus until the modular facility is complete. The space will provide room for up to 200 students total, 100 each in both 11th and 12th grade.
Officials are still deciding on additional enrollment options for January 2014, when the campus officially opens.
“There is such an advantage for students to come to the college campus because that’s what it is – a college,” Zollinger said, adding the opportunity allows high school students to take on more responsibility at an earlier age.
“It also provides a high level of drive for students,” Valerie Truesdale, chief learning services officer for CMS, said. “If you have the opportunity to engage in college classes, there is an energy that comes with that that is hard to explain.”
The program requires four courses a semester. Students start the program as juniors, taking three high school courses and one CPCC general education course. Second semester, students transition to two high school courses and two CPCC courses. Third semester, senior year requires one high school course and three CPCC courses and fourth semester, students take all CPCC courses.
Most students typically graduate with about 33 credit hours toward a college degree, Zollinger said, and in some cases, can graduate high school with an associate’s degree. Tuition for the courses is free, though students are required to pay for books for the college courses.
“The benefit for students to enroll in dual credit is just enormous. Think about the cost savings,” Zollinger said.
The program also offers other benefits such as a smooth transition for students into college after high school graduation, allowing students to enroll directly into a North Carolina college or university with many general education courses under their belt. The program also provides a small learning environment with a higher overall graduation rate.
Truesdale said the program also is beneficial to CMS students because, in North Carolina, community college courses automatically transfer to any other state university.
“That’s amazing that young people can go to a campus when they are close to home and they are successful. Then they transfer later on with college experience under their belt, and college completion is high,” Truesdale said.
If the new Levine program sees the same success as the Cato Middle College, CMS and CPCC officials hope to propose more expansions to the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners and CMS Board of Education, Truesdale said. Zollinger added the organizations are already planning an additional campus at the CPCC Harper campus.
Specific criteria exist for application into the middle college program. A waiting list currently exists for Cato Middle College, and the same is expected for the Levine campus. Students wishing to apply must be a current CMS student or have eligibility to attend a CMS school; be a rising 11th- or 12th-grader; have earned a level III or higher on all end-of-course exams; completed Algebra I, Algebra II and/or Geometry, Biology 1, World History, Civics and Economics and Health/PE; have a minimum cumulative unweighted GPA of 2.5; a clean disciplinary record; good attendance; and completed a minimum of one year of foreign language with a preference of two years of the same foreign language.
“This program allows students to obtain their goals at a young age,” Truesdale said. “It’s just a great investment that North Carolina is making in our youth.”
Find out more information about the application process at http://schools.cms.k12.nc.us/catoHS/Pages/Default.aspx.