Bloomer High School junior Aaron Rufledt is already planning on attending Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) after he graduates in May 2016, and he’s already on the path to a degree at CVTC.
“I thought about doing welding or machine work,” Rufledt said about his career plans. “I’d also like to do some underwater welding.”
Getting his training started at Bloomer High School is a nice start. Rufledt is one of the hundreds of high school students in western Wisconsin benefitting from college-level classes through CVTC’s dual credit program. Many of these students attend Bloomer High School, which was recognized Friday, May 15 by CVTC with the Partnership Award for its outstanding participation and cooperation in the program. Bloomer is one of four schools honored with the award, along with Cadott, Chippewa Falls and Mondovi high schools.
In dual credit classes, known in academic circles as “transcripted credit,” high school students earn full credit directly from the technical college just as if the student took the class at the college.
“They get credit on their (CVTC) transcript right away. They don’t have to apply for it. That credit can transfer to a university too,” said CVTC Vice President of Student Services Margo Keys. “We are looking for ways to create pathways from high school to CVTC, and to their bachelor’s degree at a university.”
The CVTC credits transfer to universities, including UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout, with which CVTC has transfer agreements.
“It’s part of the lifelong learning and career pathways initiative going on in technical colleges and in education as a whole,” said Amy Mangin, who works out the agreements between CVTC and participating high schools.
Rufledt will receive a direct benefit with CVTC credit in a welding class applying toward a future CVTC graduation. Nickolaus Mattieson, also a junior at Bloomer High School, has enrolled in dual credit classes next school year in Accounting and Psychology, but he may use his college credits a little differently.
“CVTC is my most probable choice because it’s cheaper, but I’m also thinking about UW-Stout,” Mattieson said. “I want to knock off some of that debt in the future.”
Mattieson, who is considering a career in accounting, is well aware that he can start at CVTC and transfer his credits to a degree at Stout or another college, including the transcripted credit classes from high school.
The students notice the difference in the college-level classes. Dual credit classes must meet college standards, and CVTC instructors and staff work closely with the high schools on the curriculum and instruction. There must be a “100 percent competency match” between what is expected of a CVTC student and what is expected of the high school student, according to Mangin.
Gaining college credit early also helps students stay in school. “Students who have completed college classes earlier are more likely to finish college,” Keys said.
In the 2014-15 school year, CVTC has dual credit agreements with 33 high schools involving 93 teachers. That represents an increase from 30 schools and 70 teachers the previous year.
At Bloomer High School, participation in the transcripted credit program is exploding. While the school offers just one dual credit class this school year, already eight in technical education, agriculture and business are approved for next year, with three more under investigation and likely to be approved. Teachers at Bloomer High School scheduled to be teaching dual credit classes include Dan Buchmann, Darren Schwartz, DeWayne Fossum, Nancy Post and Lisa Warren.
According to Bloomer school superintendent Dr. Mary Randall, the dual credit classes are part of the district’s efforts to better support business and industry in Bloomer and the surrounding area.
“The School District of Bloomer began working with the Bloomer IDC and the Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation about 5 years ago. During those meetings it became clear that the technical programming for Bloomer needed to have additional offerings to support the industry demands for career ready workers,” said Randall. “We worked closely with the CCEDC, the Bloomer IDC, and CVTC on the industry demands in the Chippewa Valley, attending some problem solving meetings as well as sharing sessions at the CCEDC. Since these meetings we have tried to develop courses which will help fill the demands, and have collaborated on a career builder webpage. We have additional work ahead of us to build a comprehensive program, but recognize how critical these programs are to supporting business growth in the Chippewa Valley.”
The school district has invested in new equipment and remodeled some instruction areas in preparation to dual credit classes.
“The costs for new equipment are very high so in regards to budget we have had some priorities to make given the projected funding from the state. This coming year we will expand a course in the automotive field, adding an ASE Certification course to the roster,” said Randall. “Business partners like PMI have been a helpful source for supplies by donating equipment and welding materials such as scrap metal which our students use in their studies.
“We will continue to try and incorporate additional coursework and expand offerings. We are grateful for the expanded partnerships and look forward to continuing them into the future,” said Randall.
Chippewa Valley Technical College delivers superior, progressive technical education which improves the lives of students, meets the workforce needs of the region, and strengthens the larger community. Campuses are located in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, Neillsville and River Falls. CVTC serves an 11-county area in west central Wisconsin. CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.