K-14 Could Become the Norm

One local educator contends his charter school is working with community colleges to achieve the goal of making two years of tuition-free community college the norm for high school students, in line with President Obama’s proposal. 

Kevin Teasley, who is president/CEO of the Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation which operates 21st Century Charter School in Gary, said that for the past eight years or so, the charter school has offered free community college courses to every one of its high school students who are willing to work for it. 

“We’ve graduated five students already who have earned their associate degree (60 college credits) through Ivy Tech Community College before earning their high school diploma from us,” he said. “Many have earned 30 college credits; most of our students graduate with at least nine college credits with that number growing each year as students (and their parents) start to see that earning an associate degree is really possible. We are graduating students early from high school, too. They can graduate early because they take so many college courses through us.”

Teasley said it’s a real “game-changer” for students coming from a poor community. “Parents who once thought their students weren’t college material are now rethinking this. Students who thought college was out of the question, or didn’t even think of college, are rethinking this, too. They are seeing reality. They are seeing their friends be successful in college courses. They are getting on the bandwagon,” Teasley said.

“I’m really glad to see the president make this call,” he said. “This is something we are already doing. It’s a challenge. I know that the governor wants students to earn more college credits when they graduate high school and be more prepared for the workforce.”

In 2013-14, Ivy Tech Community College said it had dual credit agreements with 88 percent of Indiana’s public high schools. The report said it saved Indiana residents more than $20 million in college tuition, and residents in Northwest Indiana, alone, saved $1.7 million.

Jennifer Stoner, spokeswoman at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Ill., said the college offers dual credit and an early college initiative to high school students already. “Both of these programs have been very successful. They allow high school students to earn college credit. We are very supportive of any idea that makes educational opportunities available to additional people,” she said.

Prairie State College President Terri Winfree was one of three local college presidents including GSU President Elaine P. Maimon and Moraine Valley Community College President Sylvia Jenkins who participated in the White House College Opportunity Summit in early December. It brought together colleges and universities, business leaders, nonprofit groups and others committed to supporting more college opportunities for students across the country.


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