NEWPORT — Community Colleges in the Northeast Kingdom have teamed up with Northeast Kingdom Learning Services (NEKLS) to help students connect to the college while working on skill gaps – and best yet, doing it all for free.
It happens through math and English courses called “College Essentials.”
According to the CCV Coordinators of Academic Services, Jennifer Gundy in St. Johnsbury and Cynthia Swanson of Newport, CCV and NEKLS have certainly worked together for years, but the structured way they go about it now provides big benefits to students.
In the past, students had to pay to take a course to get them ready for college-level math or English if a placement test showed that they needed skills.
“For some students – especially first-generation college students – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed,” Gundy said.
At times, just the idea of having to pay for a course that would only be preparing them could be enough to make them back away from going to college.
Markus Vogt and Tom Barth, Community Learning Center Managers for NEKLS, also saw some issues with a less structured connection as they shared with CCV in the past.
“Some students would receive their high school diploma through us but were hesitant to take a course at CCV and work with someone unfamiliar and in a setting that is unfamiliar to them,” Vogt said.
With the new system, “College Essentials” classes are available for free, and an NEKLS employee offers the course at CCV rather than at NEKLS Learning Centers.
It’s a free offering, but students sign up at the college, are enrolled as college students, and have a very soft first experience with the college environment. If they were past NEKLS students, then they transition via a familiar face.
“They don’t pay for these courses but they get acclimated to college. They are in college. They receive a CCV email account and everything any other student has,” Swanson said. “The partnership is really important.”
Both Coordinators of Academic Services pointed out another benefit: There is an open door policy at NEKLS Centers.
If students need additional aide, they can stop in at one of the NEKLS learning centers and receive more free tutoring.
“We have tutors here at CCV but not they aren’t available as many hours. This way students working hard to be ready for other college courses get the help they need. They feel guided and supported,” Gundy said.
The change occurred when Gundy took the job in St. Johnsbury after having experienced a similar set-up in the Burlington area. When she came to the Northeast Kingdom, she quickly learned of NEKLS and worked with staff to create the College Essentials model in St. Johnsbury.
After a very successful beginning, the Newport area began their College Essentials offerings.
Over 30 students have been served by College Essentials to date. Vogt and Barth of NEKLS say the results of the classes have been very encouraging. Some students have tested, for instance, as having a 7th grade level in math and finished the course able to enter college.
Some students have needed to take the Essentials course more than one semester, but all concerned have seen a large number of students who are willing to stick with it and work hard at getting what they need to move toward their goals.
The recipe of having support, being enrolled in college, but not having to pay for the basics appears to be a winning one.
For more information on the College Essentials classes, contact the St. Johnsbury office at 748-6673, or the Newport CCV offices at 334-3387.
To learn more about NEKLS, stop in at one of our 5 learning centers, visit www.NEKLSVT.org, or call toll-free, 1-844-GO NEKLS (466-3557).