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News in higher education

3/21/2006
A Hamilton County program that puts high school students on a college campus has more than tripled its enrollment since it launched five years ago.

"I can see this program growing to the point where we have a waiting list," said Barbara Whitehead, coordinator for the Hamilton County Middle College High School. "The program offers students a chance to earn a high school diploma and a college degree at the same time."

Thirty-five students were enrolled in the program when Hamilton County Schools joined with Chattanooga State Technical Community College to start it in 2001. Last semester, there were 120 students enrolled, Whitehead said. Nearly half the program's enrollment comes from home school students and private school students.

Students take college courses to earn high school and college credit. Last year, eight students graduated from the program with a high school diploma and two-year associate degrees, Whitehead said.

"It gets students who have distanced themselves from the traditional classroom experience and puts them in a venue where they can be successful," said Dr. Fannie Hewlett, vice president of academic affairs at Chattanooga State.

Chattanooga State provides office space for a program coordinator, a guidance counselor and an English teacher. This year, the college funded a secretarial position and is working to supply a second computer, Hewlett said.

"One of the strongest benefits is that it is a collaboration between K-12 and higher education, which is a focus in the state right now," she said. "And each (high school student) is a full-time, paying student."

The school district's investment is worth the money, said Warren Hill, high school director of Hamilton County Schools. The district budgeted $142,000 for the Middle College in 2005-06 for staff and supplies, records show.

"We are graduating students that otherwise might get GEDs or be dropouts," Hill said. "It also offers something to the student who wants to get through."

Students must apply to the program, go through an interview and score a minimum of 19 on the ACT. They must be accepted by Chattanooga State and pay tuition.

Middle College students must take and pass high school state tests in English, algebra and biology.

The program's annual dropout rate is 15 percent, but many of those students go on to take the GED test and return to Chattanooga State, Whitehead said. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, March 2, 2006)

Students in Tennessee's private colleges are losing their Tennessee Lottery scholarships at a slower pace than those in other institutions in the state, according to new data.

Data from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission show that 39 percent of the Tennessee Lottery scholarship recipients at private colleges didn't retain their awards this year. That compares to a 48 percent turnover rate at the public four-year universities and 57 percent at two-year colleges.

"It has a lot to do with the campus culture," said Dr. Claude Presnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA). "There's an academic infrastructure (at private colleges) that is intensely personal that helps students be much more successful."

The average student-teacher ratio at the 37 private colleges that are members of TICUA is 13-to-1, Presnell said. Several private colleges, such as the University of the South in Sewanee and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, have selective admission policies. That means students are required to have higher grade-point averages and ACT scores than open-door colleges, he said.

Students with higher grades and ACT scores are much more likely to keep their lottery scholarships than those who just barely met the criteria for the awards, according to the data.

To qualify for a lottery scholarship, a student must graduate from a Tennessee high school with a 3.0 GPA or a minimum score of 21 on the ACT. Students must attend in-state colleges, public or private. To keep the scholarships, students must have a 2.75 GPA at the end of their freshman year and a 3.0 at the end of every other year. Students who lose their scholarships can win them back by raising their GPA to a 3.0 by the end of the following year. (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Feb. 28, 2006)

More than one-third of high school seniors who enrolled at East Tennessee State University last fall had to take a developmental class.

Unlike remedial classes, developmental classes are taught at four-year colleges and often cover information that students were taught in high school. Developmental students can read, but not well. Or they can perform basic math, but have problems with algebra.

Developmental classes are filled with high school graduates who are not prepared for college-level work. Students in developmental classes are caught between a college's minimum standards — which differ from institution to institution — and high school graduation requirements, which are set by the end-of-course and Gateway tests designed by the Tennessee Department of Education.

A high school diploma does not guarantee students won't need developmental classes, said Dory Creech, Kingsport's director for comprehensive school improvement and accountability.

A report from Northeast State Community College shows 72.9 percent of the 2005 freshman class required one or more developmental or remedial class. The largest number of students had to go back to take remedial or developmental mathematics classes before they could enter college-level math.

Statewide at Tennessee Board of Regents colleges, 59.3 percent of 2005 freshmen were required to take a developmental class before proceeding to college-level work. (Kingsport Times-News, Feb. 28, 2006)

The Tennessee Senate recently passed a resolution honoring Dr. Art Walker on his retirement as president of Motlow State Community College.

"I am deeply honored," said Walker as he stood in the well of the Senate chambers. "This is truly a great honor for me."

State Sen. Jim Tracy is author of the joint resolution.

Walker has served since 2003 as Motlow's fourth president but has been with the school for 18 years. He joined the school as a professor of psychology in 1988 after a 26-year career in the U.S. Air Force, from which he retired with the rank of major. He will retire as Motlow's president, effective June 30. (Elk Valley Times, Feb. 28, 2006)