Butler reorganizes early college academies

By Levi Yager
Butler County Times Gazette – February 28, 2017

Starting in the fall 2017 semester, Butler Community College will be phasing out the Early College Public Safety Academy.
“That public safety academy … is here in El Dorado, but the enrollment is not strong in it, and we aren’t generating any additional interest for enrollment for this coming year. We think a lot of it has to do with the fact that for some of the – like the EMT, the EMS kinds of things – that those students have to be 18 before they can be certified and test for some of the things. We think a lot of the things that are happening nationally are impacting desire, maybe, to be involved in law enforcement types of jobs. The students that are involved now, we’re going to continue to teach those classes so that they can complete what they’re currently enrolled in. We’ll move those classes over to the fire science building. And instead, in conversation with our partner schools, there’s a lot of interest for a more blended pre-law/criminal justice track academy. Rose Hill has committed additional classroom space. There’s a lot of interest from Derby and Douglass and Mulvane and the schools down in that area. And so, we’ve decided that we’re going to go ahead and start to promote that and see, you know, see what kind of interest is generated. The deans right now are, once we know what the interest is, then the deans will be able to tell us how many sections we may need to add. But there’s a lot of interest in that area. There’s also a lot of interest in education – in an education academy. And so we’re going to move forward and start to share information with parents and counselors about the potential for also an early college education academy,” College President Kim Krull said.
Early College Academies at BCC introduce the college learning experience to high school juniors and seniors by allowing them to take college credit in high school. The academies are specific to certain programs at the college. Through these academies, high school students can graduate with their diploma and an associate degree simultaneously.
“We started our first [early college] academy in the fall of 2010. And that first academy was the health sciences academy, and we started with seven students. And that particular academy today has 114 students in it, so you can see in seven years how much it has grown – huge,” Lori Winningham, vice president of academics at BCC, said.
The Early College Public Safety Academy was started within the last two years.
“We originally designed that [public safety] academy to have several branches in the public service arena that students could go into. Their first year, they would all be together as one group, and then they would choose a track. They could choose fire science, criminal justice, we had planned to develop an emergency communications track and then EMT. And we started that academy also with only seven students, but the interest has not really developed …. We’re in our second year right now, and we have 12 students that started out. The thing that we’re finding is that in order to have those four tracks, we need a larger volume of students,” Winningham said.
The administration has therefore decided to restructure how the public safety academy functions.
“So, as we have looked at that particular academy, we have decided that … we’re going to go ahead and do the fire science component of it where high school students can get a one-year fire science curriculum and then finish their associate’s degree …. There’s a fire station that we share with the City of El Dorado, and we’ll continue to offer that option for students who want to go the fire science track. For the other tracks – the emergency communications track, we did not develop that because we had zero students indicate they wanted that track. And then, the EMT numbers have been very, very small as well. And so, we offer EMT courses. Students can take those now in a concurrent format. So, while it won’t be in an academy setting, students can still do that. For the criminal justice arena, we have kind of backed up and reconfigured curriculum, and we will open a strain of what we’re going to call pre-law track at our Rose Hill campus. And so, that’s kind of where some of the criminal justice flavor is going to be seen because some of those courses in that track come from our criminal justice curriculum. And that will be kind of a new academy, but it’s really a modified version of what we did before, starting in the fall of ’17,” Winningham said.
The college will also be restructuring its Early College I.T. Academy, which is another academy that had several tracks in it. It will be broken out into separate cyber security and 3D technologies academies for the next school year.
“Right now, we have 34 for students in that I.T. academy. And as we start our group next year, they’ll have to choose which side they want to go – 3D technologies or cyber security,” Winningham said.
There are currently seven total early college academies scheduled for next school year.
“The one that is kind of new on the horizon is education. She’s listing this as elementary ed right now – we may just make that education. But right now that’s another new one for fall that will be kind of sharing the space with the pre-law group at Rose Hill. And I don’t have any numbers in that because that’ll be a new one for fall,” Winningham said.
The cost for entire associate degree through an early college academy at BCC ranges from about $3,000 to $4,600. Ideally, high school students will start at an academy as juniors and can finish their associate degree by the time they graduate.
“These students that get selected to go into the academies, typically what they do is – we have morning groups and we have afternoon groups – they spend half of their school day in the academy, and then the other half they’re back in their high school. So, they really live in both worlds. It’s not like they are not available to participate in sports or drama and all the things that high school students are involved in. You know, they make a big commitment to being in college at the same time that they’re in high school, but they live in both worlds. And that’s an important piece that we wanted to preserve for these students because, you know, that’s an experience that many of them don’t want to just walk away from,” Winningham said.


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