UTTC Launches Dual-Enrollment Program

May 15th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-4: Investing in Education, Empowering Tribal Communities, Tribal College News
By Dennis J. Neumann

COMPARING DIGITAL NOTES: Montoya Smith, left, and Taniesha Rainbow, both from Four Winds High School (Spirit Lake Tribe), in the UTTC computer lab during a visit to learn about the college’s first dual-enrollment program. United Tribes photo by Dennis J. Neumann

“It was a great way to start a group of students on their journey into higher education and kick-off the new program.”

That’s how Julie Desjarlais described the launch of a dual-enrollment program at United Tribes Technical College (UTTC, Bismarck, ND).

Desjarlais is UTTC’s Online Outreach and Training Coordinator. She and her team in the United Tribes Educational Outreach program hosted high school students for a two-day campus visit December 8-9.

“Our first enrolled class was ‘FIRST CLASS!,’” says Desjarlais. “The students conducted themselves as high achievers with dignity and class. It was a wonderful experience for them and their school advocates.”

Dual enrollment involves students receiving instruction from two separate academic institutions. In this case, students from three different tribes traveled hundreds of miles to Bismarck to check out the program and enroll in a tribal college. The inaugural cohort involved students from Turtle Mountain Community High School, Belcourt, ND, and St. John High School, St. John, ND (both Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa); Four Winds High School, Fort Totten, ND (Spirit Lake Tribe); and Tiospa Zina High School, Sisseton, SD (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate).

Dual enrollment proves advantageous for most students. It allows them to ease the transition from high school to college and get a head start on a college career. There is evidence that it also promotes high school graduation and later improves persistence in remaining in college.

The UTTC program began by enrolling 33 students for spring semester 2012. To qualify, students must have a 3.0 GPA or better. The participating schools are required to appoint an advocate, or liaison, to work directly with the students and coordinate the instruction they receive online from UTTC.

While at UTTC, the high school students toured the campus and became familiar with their electronic connection to college during an online orientation in the college’s computer lab. They were briefed by college staff members about enrolling, registration, and financial aid. They heard from other Native American high school students in a series of videos funded by the North Dakota College Access Network and North Dakota University System. And they met with President David M. Gipp, who said he was delighted to see so many students from the different schools on campus.

UTTC plans to continue its educational outreach by visiting predominantly Native schools in the region and offering online dual enrollment. The program allows high school students to bank credits, providing an incentive to finish high school and make the transition to college.

“The goal of dual enrollment is to help make the transition as stress-free and seamless as possible,” says Desjarlais. “It’s a real opportunity for the students and their high schools.”

It’s also an opportunity for the college. UTTC hopes the experience will lead students to choose to continue at the college by pursuing an online education or enrolling as a traditional college student.

“But even if they choose to stay in their community and enroll in a local tribal college or another college of their choice, it’s all good,” says Desjarlais. “The colleges will get well-informed, confident students, with a jump start on their post-secondary education. Everyone benefits.”

The UTTC Educational Outreach team works under the direction of Russell Swagger, Vice President of Student and Campus Services, and includes Monte Schaff, Educational Outreach director; Chris Baillie, web developer; and Julie Desjarlais, Online Outreach and Training coordinator. Major funding for the program, including the kick-off event, was provided by the North Dakota College Access Network.

For more information, contact Julie Desjarlais, (701) 255-3285 x 1374, jdesjarlais@uttc.edu.

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