By Brian Boyd
NEW BEDFORD — High school dropouts and at-risk students could work toward their diploma and earn college credits at the same time through a pilot program at Bristol Community College’s New Bedford campus.
BCC officials unveiled a new initiative to tackle the high dropout rate in New Bedford at a School Committee meeting Monday night. Committee members backed the program, which would be mostly supported by private donations for the first year.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure they earn a high school diploma,” said Mayor Scott W. Lang, who encouraged high school dropouts to call the School Department and take advantage of the pilot.
The new program creates “a middle college,” an opportunity for students to earn 30 academic credits through BCC’s New Bedford campus. It is open to dropouts and students on the verge of dropping out of high school.
The pilot program would serve 25-50 students and would provide classes in the evening, with the possibility of expanding to include daytime courses in the future. There would also be access to online learning, according to BCC officials.
Only 53.5 percent of New Bedford students graduate in four years, compared to 82 percent statewide, according to the presentation.
“It is an opportunity to achieve a high school diploma as they take college credit,” Theresa Romanovitch, dean of BCC’s New Bedford campus, told School Committee members.
Not only would students gain their much-needed high school diploma, but they could use the credits toward a college degree. The program will help the students explore careers, and they would receive mentoring and other assistance.
The program would help lower the dropout rate, boost college enrollment and improve the students’ long-term, wage-earning opportunities, Romanovitch said.
For the first year, the college and city school system would rely mostly on private funding from The Higher Education Partnership and Rockefeller Philanthropy, totaling $200,000, to pay for the pilot program, she said.
In the second year, private funding would be reduced, and the School Department would start reimbursing BCC by sharing a portion of state education aid to the city. The city would regain lost Chapter 70 funds from the state for each dropout who returns to school, and it would share 75 percent of the recaptured funds with the college, according to the plan.
By the third year, if all goes as planned, the school district would fully fund the program using state education aid.
Since the school district loses Chapter 70 money for each student that leaves the system, it would get to keep a quarter of the recaptured funds. That way, it’s not paying BCC out of funds it currently gets, according to college and city officials.
September 13, 2011 12:00 AM
By Brian Boyd