KFCS, KCSD, KCC leaders meet to discuss the importance of education partnerships

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Three local leaders in education banded together last week to share the importance of educational partnerships in setting high school students up for success.

The discussion was presented at a Rotary meeting held Thursday at Reames Golf and Country Club. The presenters were Klamath Community College President Roberto Gutierrez, Klamath County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, and Klamath Falls City Schools (KFCS) Superintendent Paul Hillyer.

Oregon Tech President Nagi Naganathan was invited but could not attend due to a prior commitment.

Gutierrez said early indicators of success being tracked at KCC are showing that the most positive gains in student retention and completion at the college all point to dual credit partnerships with KCSD and KFCS. He explained that students who start at KCC and who have earned 15 or more credits while in high school, have a graduation rate twice that of the entire student population.

“The work we are doing to get students engaged in college credits before finishing high school not only ensures they finish high school, but that they are also our most successful college students,” Gutierrez said. “If we get a student to start thinking about college while in high school, high school graduation is just a marker on the way to them reaching for a higher bar in which they will be successful at college.”

Gutierrez said earning a high school credit, enrolling in a full load of courses at KCC, and being at or very near college-ready in math and writing, builds the profile of a student who earns a degree that leads directly to employment or transfer to a four-year institution.

“By working together we set up a path from high school to college to university,” Gutierrez said. “In our community there has never been a better time for high school students who want to move into higher ed.”

Hillyer said KFCS high school students have more than two dozen KCC-aligned dual credit courses to choose from and an array of certificates that can be earned through KCC or dual credit pathways that lead to programs at Oregon Tech.

Hillyer said his district has three times more students than last year traveling to KCC during the school day to attend “College Now” courses that allow high school students to earn college credit on the KCC campus.

“When our two school districts work together and both districts work with postsecondary, we can make a big difference,” Hillyer said. “We accomplish more with cooperation than working alone.”

Szymoniak said KCSD students are encouraged to take dual credit courses to gain confidence in taking college-level work.

We also have them visit college campuses so they can see college life and see that it’s not more high school. They are on their own, and there are a lot of exciting things to do out there,” he said.

Szymoniak also pointed out the financial benefits of taking dual credit courses in high school. Because high school students enrolled with local partners can take dual credit courses at no cost, high school graduates can enter KCC or Oregon Tech carrying no debt and may even be able to enter as a junior, based on the credit they have earned.

“Think about the money saved for a family in not paying for housing, food, and all the expenses associated with college. Taking dual credit courses in high school makes college affordable,” Szymoniak said.

Gutierrez said thanks to dual credit partnerships with KCSD and KFCS, first-year students at KCC are more academically prepared than ever before.

“When students engage in high school, they are getting to know the rigors of college-level work. Now when they come to KCC, they are ready,” Gutierrez said.

By Lacey Jarrell – Director of Communications – jarrell@klamathcc.edu

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