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Tech college doubles career pathways for high schoolers

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To make a more seamless transition for high school students interested in career and technical training, Technical College of the Rockies (TCR) is making some scheduling changes. First, the school year will be aligned more closely with the district's calendar. Second, classes will be offered in blocks in either morning or afternoon sessions, to minimize conflicts with core classes required for graduation, as well as after-school activities.

With the scheduling changes, secondary students will have a "true college experience" because they'll be in a classroom with postsecondary students, learning the same competencies and being held to the same standards. For their efforts, they will receive both high school credit and college credit. The goal, said TCR director Michael Klouser, is for every student to graduate with a high school diploma, plus an industry-based credential that's offered in every area of study. He cited as an example the Automotive Service Excellence, or ASE, credential for automotive mechanics. Ideally students will also be able to pick up some work experience.

At a school board work session, Klouser said TCR is increasing opportunities for high school students by expanding the number of student slots from 51 to 142. He explained the slot system is used to evenly apportion career readiness opportunities among the four high schools in Delta County. In support of career and technical education, the school district will pay TCR a negotiated price for each slot, using funds from the Colorado Career and Technical Act. The school district will also purchase text books and lab manuals. Students can enroll outside the pre-designated slots, but will be charged full tuition and fees, unless some openings are available after postsecondary enrollment has closed.

Fields of study available include automotive technology, cosmetology, early childhood education, drafting and certified nurse assistant training.

All students will be required to apply for admission to TCR. Transportation is up to the student.

"The technical college is such an asset," said school board president Pete Blair. "We want it to take off."

The school board also approved a 6 percent tuition increase for all fields of study with the exception of law enforcement and health programs. That puts TCR at $93 per credit hour. The two other technical colleges in Colorado, both on the Front Range, charge $116 and $117 per credit hour. Western Colorado Community College, an affiliate of Colorado Mesa University, is at $299.08 per credit hour.

Further, to remain competitive, the school board approved salary increases for staff trained in high-demand programs.

School board members also reviewed a schematic for the design of the Engage Center in downtown Delta. Because there's a wait list for most of the tech college's health programs, current thinking has those programs being moved into the old City Market

building at 6th and Main.

"We can't get more than 32 students into a classroom at the tech college," Klouser said, adding those classrooms were not designed for health programs in the first place. Funding from the Colorado Health Foundation could help expand program offerings in one of the fastest-growing industries in the area, and free up space in the technical college for other uses.

About 60 percent of the space is being eyed for health programs, with the remaining portion dedicated to technology support, plus the business and entrepreneurial services originally envisioned for Engage.

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