ARCHBOLD — An innovative partnership between Northwest State Community College and local manufacturers led the college to develop a program that provides high school students with targeted hands-on technical education while earning credits toward an associate degree.

The STEM Public-Private Partnership Program targets students in Ohio’s College Credit Plus dual enrollment program, according to a report by the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. The science, technology, engineering and math-focused program bridges the gap between students and local job opportunities.

Northwest State’s success with rural students was one of five programs highlighted by the association’s Success Center in a case-study report citing strong College Credit Plus models across the state.

College Credit Plus began six years ago as an initiative to encourage Ohio high school students to take college classes, allowing them to earn credit at no cost while meeting their high school graduation requirements. The state pays for the classes, with tuition rates negotiated with colleges.

The Success Center’s case studies report illuminates what it takes to develop, launch and grow a College Credit Plus initiative.

Northwest State anchors a six-county region that is home to more than 100 manufacturers. In order to meet the hiring needs of the manufacturing industry, the college, along with business leaders and school district partners, developed the partnership program.

Northwest State engineering faculty visit local high schools and explain how the engineering field is accessible to students with a wide range of interests and aptitudes. This approach has netted increased student interest and program enrollment. A dedicated Northwest State advisor works with the homeschool population.

Students in the STEM program, which is offered in nine local school districts, follow the college course sequence and can take classes at Northwest State’s advanced Manufacturing Training Center or at area employers’ facilities.

Nearly all the students enroll in college after they graduate, the report said, and about half enroll at Northwest State.

“NSCC wants to be able to assist students to connect the link between education and employment,” said Ryan Hamilton, Dean of STEM and Industrial Technologies at Northwest State Community College.

The OACC said Northwest State’s and other successful College Credit Plus programs help students find a path to college, develop in-demand skills and obtain college credits at no cost.

College Credit Plus programs saw steady annual growth until the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. Enrollment is expected to rebound this academic year when students return to classrooms.

The Success Center’s case study on Northwest State’s College Credit Plus program can be found at https://bit.ly/ccp_case_studies.

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