Brittney Hakes was already a semester ahead when she enrolled in Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in the fall. Hakes had just graduated from Cornell High School in May, but had a semester of her college work toward an associate degree in Business Management completed.
“I took basically my first semester of Business Management in my senior year at Cornell,” said Hakes, who earned 17 credits through dual credit agreements between Cornell High School and CVTC.
Hakes was one of about 25 high school and CVTC students attending when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visited CVTC’s Chippewa Falls campus Thursday to promote his educational initiatives, including increasing funding for the kinds of dual credit agreements that have benefitted Hakes. Walker took considerable time after making public comments to visit with many of the students, teachers and administrators attending.
“There are tremendous career opportunities out there for young people,” Walker said. “The one common theme is it takes education beyond high school.”
Research has shown students who are exposed to college-level experiences while still in high school are more likely to complete college, according to CVTC officials. That has led CVTC and other schools to increase dual credit agreements, in which students receive both high school and college credits.
CVTC has expanded from 57 dual credit agreements with 24 high schools in 2012-2013 to over 135 agreements at 34 area high schools today. The CVTC dual credit programs have helped almost 5,600 students since 2011.
Walker has proposed an additional $3 million statewide to support dual credit programs, in addition to the $35.4 million of funding for the Wisconsin Fast Forward program, which includes dual credit initiatives.
“We’d like to put even more resources into the next state budget so all 434 Wisconsin school districts can start dual credit programs,” Walker said.
Dual credit with CVTC is widely used in Chippewa County high schools. At Chippewa Falls Senior High School in 2012-2013, CVTC had five dual credit agreements in which 133 students earned 278 credits. By 14-15, it expanded to seven agreements in which 275 students earned 568 credits. At Bloomer, New Auburn, Cornell, Lake Holcombe and Stanley-Boyd high schools in 2012-2013, CVTC had 16 dual credit agreements in which 133 students earned 278 credits. In 2014-15 the figures grew to 539 students earning 1,333 credits with a total of 28 agreements.
Chi-Hi currently has eight dual credit classes with CVTC, Cadott 10, Cornell four and Lake Holcombe one. Bloomer has six dual credit classes and Stanley-Boyd four.
Chi-Hi currently has an Information Technology Academy in cooperation with CVTC, with students taking a series of classes from a CVTC instructor right at the high school.
“For us, we wanted to fill a gap, because so many of our students want to be involved in IT classes and there’s a large skills gap in IT,” said Scott Kowalski, director of educational technology for the Chippwa Falls School District.
Students like the money it saves them. “I knew it would be saving me about $400 per class at CVTC,” said Hakes.
Hakes decided to add Human Resources as a second major at CVTC and plans to go on for a four-year degree after graduating. “I found out I have a passion for HR,” she said.
Walker also proposed increasing financial aid grants for technical college students to help an additional 1,000 students statewide and a new emergency assistance program to help students who may be at risk of dropping out during a financial crisis.
“We have to think outside the box and work to create pathways to employment,” Walker said. “This includes opportunities like dual enrollment, which help our students pursue challenging and demanding careers by providing them with the practical skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the workplace.”