Another innovative approach to supporting student academic and career success begins this year through partnerships with The Bridge of Southern New Mexico and a $70,000 grant from the Thornburg Foundation.
Ensuring that students in our county get the most out of our rich educational ecosystem depends on the best guidance for navigating their unique career paths through high school and college into careers. To make the most of this ecosystem, Doña Ana County is set to embark on developing a “better way” to provide this guidance to students taking dual credit courses.
As part of a collaboration between South Bridge New Mexico, Doña Ana Community College, and the school districts of Las Cruces, Gadsden, and Hatch, a new “joint council” model will be developed that aims to unite counselors high school and college dual credit counselors as knowledgeable partners who understand both systems.
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Equipped with knowledge and connections, Advisors and Advisors will be ideally placed to support students in choosing courses leading to a college degree faster and cheaper, while preparing them to start their careers more early and at higher rates of pay than if they hadn’t earned college credentials/degrees.
The importance of understanding and sharing information between college and high school staff is key to helping students get the most out of their dual credit choices. Without proper guidance, students may choose courses that ultimately do not progress to academic titles or degrees, wasting time and money.
The Thornburg Foundation has a long-standing interest in funding innovative programs that can lead to better policies and practices in New Mexico. With a desire to support strong and effective vocational and technical training programs statewide, Thornburg understands our goal that the work in our county serve as a model of best practice for other communities.
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“High school students pursuing dual credit deserve clear guidance that will help them choose courses that will put them on the path to a college degree,” said Allan Oliver, CEO of the Foundation. Thornburg. “We are thrilled to partner with The Bridge of Southern New Mexico on this innovative model and hope the lessons learned in Doña Ana County will improve educational outcomes across the state.”
In a major study in Texas, the lack of joint advice was identified as a weakness in the success of their extensive dual credit program. New Mexico, as a state, is currently suffering the same fate, which is why the need to develop a model like this is imperative.
New Mexico South Bridge will serve as the organizer and facilitator for this effort, and the New Mexico State University College of Education SOAR Lab will serve as the evaluator. The goal would be to track student performance over the grant period and beyond, to see if Doña Ana County students in vocational and technical training, early secondary schools, and those taking common courses at dual credit earn college degrees at higher rates than outside students. the county, and whether they earn more when they enter the labor market with higher skill levels.
One of the grant outcomes may include the development of an online tool that helps better connect the two systems, but this will be determined by the collective wisdom of all who play a role in guiding students and are on the front lines of understanding what works and what doesn’t.
Supporting student success, especially in this new pandemic era, requires constant innovation and teaming up to find better ways to provide students and families with the information they need to get the most out of their academic choices. Thanks to the Thornburg Foundation and partners at The Bridge, we look forward to leading the charge on yet another way to spark transformative change in our county.
Tracey Bryan is President and CEO of Bridge of Southern New Mexico.