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Cabarrus Magazine

'Up Front' Podcast Examines College and Career Promise Program at RCCC As Viable Alternative

Jul 27, 2020 04:00PM ● By Jason Huddle

Episode 68: The College and Career Promise Program

With all the uncertainty of what this coming school year is going to look like for students, many high school juniors and seniors are seeking out alternative ways to finish out their high school careers. This week, we examine one such opportunity, called the College and Career Promise program available at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Representing the college are advisors to the program, Flora Calderon-Steck and Emily Balwin. They'll explain the details of this tuition free program that allows high school upperclassmen and women to earn their remaining credits necessary for graduation, as well as up to two years of college credit! For more information on this program, visit You can also check out our past episodes entitled, "Education Series (Part 1) Free College? It Already Exists" and "Help! I'm Not a Teacher!".

Roy Cooper  00:01

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper here. Today I announced that North Carolina schools will be opening this fall for both in person and remote learning. Face coverings will be required for everybody in the school building.


Jason Huddle  00:14

The decision has been made but what education will look like this year for students is still uncertain.


Roy Cooper  00:20

To make room for social distancing, districts and schools can use a strategy that works for them, whether it's alternating days or weeks or some other strategy. If our trends spike and we cannot safely reopen our schools. We'll move to all remote learning like we did in spring. We know that schools will look different this year, and it will be challenging for both students and educators.


Jason Huddle  00:44

With so much confusion surrounding the upcoming school year. High school juniors and seniors are seeking out alternative ways to finish their high school careers, including the college career Promise Program at Rowan Cabarrus Community College and that's what we're going to talk about today on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Canberra ScienceCabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus I'm your host Jason Huddle. Hello again, my friends and welcome to yet another edition Episode 68 of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. I am so pleased you're here with us. And if you haven't heard by now, which probably you have governor Cooper, as you heard in the opener, has announced his plans for North Carolina schools to be able to reopen. Now of course they can go with his plan. They can go with a stricter plan. They cannot go with anything that is less strict than what he has laid out. Cabarrus County Schools is still putting out their plans although some of them are as of the time we released this episode, they're still a little uncertain in some places. So we're going to give them a little leeway to react since they were waiting for governor Cooper to make his announcement as well. Regardless, there is a lot of uncertainty as to what the school year is going to look like. And if you remember the seniors last year, really kind of got robbed of that end of the year graduation experience. We appreciate everything the community did and the drive thru graduation ceremony at the speedway. I thought those were all great efforts. But let's face it, it still wasn't the same as walking across that stage and experiencing those last few weeks of school and saying proper goodbyes and there's just a whole thing that goes along with graduation that these guys didn't get to experience. Not to mention that they were kind of robbed of some educational opportunities or experiences at the end of the year. Basically, if you recall, they were told in March a if you had a certain grade point, average or you were making a certain grade in your classes you passed you graduated congratulations. We'll do something for you in June. And so for those that are wanting to not only finish their high school careers on a high mark, but maybe even get a head start on college, or looking into an awesome program we have talked about on this podcast before called the college career Promise program. Now we've had others talk about this program and other opportunities for high schoolers to earn college credit. But this time, we wanted to go directly to the source so invited Flora Calderon-Steck, and Emily Balwin from Rowan Cabarrus Community College, to join us on the program today to give us some specifics about the program, what it is and what it isn't, and give you some more information. As you are planning for this school year. Maybe if you have or know a rising junior or senior in high school, this might be a program you want to look at. So that is coming up right after shameless plug time. Shameless plug has nothing to do with Cabarrus Magazine. But it does have to do with CapCo media because we are launching a second podcast. Now this one is not for Cabarrus County specifically, it is a national podcast called Jesus Freaks Vinyl to Digital. And we launch July 31 2020. This is going to be a podcast that celebrates contemporary Christian music all the way from the 70s when it got its start to today, and we are going to be interviewing artists from all genres. And I can tell you that having already interviewed about six artists, this is going to be great and every episode is going to be different. So if you are a fan of contemporary Christian music, and you are looking for a good podcast to listen to please check us out where you listen to your podcasts on all major platforms. You can also follow us at at Jesus Freaks podcast on Instagram. And on our website. Jesus Freaks podcast dot com. We hope you'll join us and that's today's shameless plug time. Flora and Emily from Rowan Cabarrus Community College will be on the line next to talk all about the college career promise program right after these messages from our sponsors stick around.


Commercial  05:12



Jason Huddle  06:54

Welcome back to the program. We are talking this week about alternative ways to educate our kids. Governor Cooper came out with his announcement this week about his plans for opening schools and a lot of parents are scrambling, trying to figure out this isn't gonna really work for my child. What are some ways I could do it? Now for the elementary kids, that will be a discussion for another day. But for high school kids, specifically juniors and seniors, there is a great program at Rowan Cabarrus where kids can get both high school credit towards graduation and college credit. It's called the college career promise program. And I have invited two lovely ladies on our program today. This is Flora and Emily. They are recruitment and enrollment advisors for Rowan Cabarrus Community College and they also specifically advise on the college career promise program. So first of all, ladies, thank you so much for being on the program.


Flora Calderon-Steck  07:51

Thank you!


Emily Balwin  07:51

Thanks for having us.


Jason Huddle  07:53

Absolutely. So let's let's just start with the basics. And I'll let either of you take this but lay it out really Basic for parents who are not familiar with program what is the college career Promise program?


Emily Balwin  08:05

Okay, I will answer that for you. So the Career College Promise program is the dual enrollment program for the state of North Carolina. So the community college system works with the North Carolina Department of instruction to create these Dual Credit allowances that allow high school juniors and seniors to get a jumpstart on their college career with rolling bears. It is a tuition waiver program. So tuition is waived for students, bears county students. The school system also covers their books. So the minimal cost they have with fees, if any, are applicable to their registration.


Jason Huddle  08:46

So the school system covers the books, so I wasn't aware of that. My my kids were homeschooled, and so or at least my boys were homeschooled, and so they both went through the college career promise program. However, since we're homeschool, we had to cover the books. What you know what that was? That was fine. We were happy to cover the cost of the books because we weren't paying tuition.


Emily Balwin  09:06

Exactly the cost is still minimal and there are some differences based on what county your student attends classes in. So, you know if if we have some that sit really close to the Mecklenburg County line. So if you're technically at a Mecklenburg school, you'd have to cover books, I'm with Rowan County, but Cabarrus County Schools for those public school students, they cover the costs. One important thing to note too about this program is for those juniors and seniors to participate, they need an unweighted GPA of 2.8 or higher, but then that makes them automatically eligible for both our transfer pathways and our career technical education pathways. So those students who ultimately want to go on to a four year school can get a jumpstart on those general education requirements that are part of that freshman and sophomore year. Typically, students who know they may not want to go to a four year school but they want training or education. Post high school, they can come take those current technical education courses such as welding, or early childhood programs. cosmetology program fall in that as well. So there's lots of options. Even if your student is not planning on going to a four year school that can come take advantage of that those certificate programs or diploma programs with us through Korean college promise


Jason Huddle  10:24

So that you bring up a good point because this isn't just for even though colleges in the name. It's not just for students who want to eventually go on to a four year college. And in fact, we did an article several years ago that for with the welding and you mentor you brought a welding with some welding students where you had employers that were getting your welding students before they even earn their certificate, because there were so many jobs available and they were desperate. And so they were they were just chomping at the bit to get these guys signed up. So tell us a little bit about the trades part of the college career promise program two, because that is something that a lot of people seem to be we seem to be the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards needing trades right now. So tell us a little bit about that. Flora you wanna take that one?


Flora Calderon-Steck  11:12

Yeah so like Emily said earlier, we do have the career and technical education, certificates and diplomas. And the beautiful part about this is that the high school students are able to graduate from high school not only with the high school degree, but also with a college level certificate that positions them to enter the workforce for high demand, high wage jobs, that are wanting our students and everything from cosmetology to welding to information technology to construction management. So lots of choices. The certificates are created for the high school students. So they're usually four to five classes that are easily done while they're in high school. And they don't have to choose either or they can do both and so they can get ahead into college credits while getting a certificate that is going to allow them to work when they go to college and hopefully lower the amount of loans they have to take out to finance their their four year degree. So it's just a win win situation. And again, it's wise to emphasize that it is tuition free. Some of these classes have labs, so they do have to pay for those labs. But the cost is minimal. It's 15 to $20 per lab. So it's a very doable and a wise decision for any students and every student to do.


Jason Huddle  12:33

So I was doing a little bit of research and writing this article for the August edition. The cost of attendance in North Carolina, if you're in state, cost of attendance now cost of attendance, tuition, food books, all the whole nine but it is over $18,000 a year that's for in state. And so basically what you guys are doing is you're saying here's a program where you can get essentially two years of competing free college education. And then you transfer to a four year school. And you go in as a junior and you only have to worry about two years of cost of attendance. Right?


Flora Calderon-Steck  13:10

That's correct. Yeah. It's it's really it's a wise choice, particularly as the cost of higher education continues to outpaced inflation, and wages. So it's really a smart thing. Also, we know from research that students that start out at a community college outperform their peers that go straight into a four year school, because they have learned the skills to be successful in college. In a smaller Student Center institution, where the student is our mission. It is in four year schools too, but you can get lost in a big public institution. So there's a lot of advantages in addition to the tuition cost savings for coming to a community college. I should probably mention too, that the students that graduate Wait for the college career Promise program with her high school diploma and the associate degree at the same time.


Jason Huddle  14:07

These are kind of unicorns right that that's that's a high expectation for a lot of students. Right, Emily, I see you nodding your head.


Emily Balwin  14:14

It is so especially if you have a student who's involved with cocurricular activities on campus or they're an athlete, most of our career in college promise students are taking two maybe three classes with us this semester. And I want to say even three is probably a lot for most. So that makes them really a part time student. It is a lot because steel for a student to complete the career in college promise the degree through that program. They're still taking about 15 credit hours a semester in order to complete in those two years. So it is a unicorn, but we have seen students do that. The important thing to remind parents too is that the community college in the career College Promise program, have articulation agreement with 16 public institutions in the state of North Carolina, so as long as the student makes a C or better the course will transfer to that university. Now there are agreements with most private schools as well in the state. But the the guarantee is that the university system in the state of North Carolina, so I also encourage parents if you have a student that wants to go to an out of state school, to look at their you know, passport equivalencies, talk to the admissions counselor there to make sure that your your student is taking what they will accept, and what they need to go towards completion and an out of state system. If the students that want to complete the Associate's Degree in that two year period through this program, if they let flora and I know we can help advise them so that they can meet that goal. The really cool part about this as well is it is eligible to juniors and seniors. So they also have the summer term but between their junior and senior year in the summertime after their senior year to take classes, so they really have to Six semesters to take classes with us to complete what their goals are. So again, some students only want 12 credits to transfer to that four year school, some students will all 60 credits in that degree to transfer as well. So as long as the student is open and communicating with us about what their goals are, we can help them achieve that. And again, even with the CTE, so let's say a student comes to us and they do that certificate pretty quickly in welding is going to go on and do the diploma. And we can help them do that as well once they complete their certificate still through Career and College Promise.


Jason Huddle  16:35

I'm gonna throw it to break real quick. And then when we come back, I want to talk a little bit more about maybe some success stories that you guys might be able to share. Is that was that possible? Sure. Yes, not wonderful. All right. We'll be back with these lovely ladies Emily and Flora from the Rowan Cabarrus Community College. right after this. We're talking about the college career Promise program. Stay tuned.


Commercial  16:58



Jason Huddle  17:28

Welcome back to the program talking today about the college career Promise Program at Rowan Cabarrus Community College I should mention that this program is available to community colleges all over the state. Granted, it's it's designated under different names, but it's the same program where students can earn college credit and high school credit for the last two years of their high school careers at the community college. Before we get into some success stories, I wanted to just touch base on this coming semester. Most classes are going to be online, correct?


Flora Calderon-Steck  19:31



Jason Huddle  19:32

That's correct. Except for lab classes, I think and things that cannot be done. What what accommodations are you making for those classes that can't be done online? What What are you guys doing there? Some of it is concerned. What accommodations Yeah,


Flora Calderon-Steck  19:46

What those classes are doing is that instead of coming to campus every week, they're coming to campus every other week. So having so instead of being on campus for 16 weeks, they will be on campus for eight weeks so they can have that face to face. instruction that's necessary for cosmetology and welding and automotive. So to provide for that social distancing requirement and of course, to be on campus, you have to wear a mask. That is that is a requirement unless there's a medical reason that doesn't allow you to do so and hand washing is highly encouraged throughout as well.


Emily Balwin  20:20

We're also doing temperature checks, we've limited the the seating and some of our classes to promote the social distancing aspect. So things like cosmetology, their capacity has been lowered, were typically roughly, you know, 24 students in a class, it's much lower for the fall to promote the social distancing piece. So we're doing the best we can and my, the COVID situation to keep the health and safety of our students at the forefront, but it also means some of those capacity levels and that sort of thing had to be reduced. Yes,


Jason Huddle  20:54

Understood, so let's talk about some success stories. During the break we were talking about, I was telling you guys about a family friend of ours who she was a unicorn. She graduated in two years. She got her high school diploma and her Associate's Degree in the same month, went on to UNC Wilmington and has since graduated from UNC Wilmington. And I think she did that in three semesters. So yes, she was the unicorn of the unicorns. But tell us about some success stories that you guys have had come through this program?


Flora Calderon-Steck  21:27

Yes, I actually have the privilege of working with the homeschool families. And that's the population that seems to take the most advantage of the program because they have the most flexibility. So a high percentage of our students who are homeschooled are able to finish that associate's degree while they're in high school. So that's a norm. It but it also can happen for students that are in the traditional building schools. So for instance, I'm particularly thinking of a student at Northland. And she was hard, hard, hard working, she knew that her family didn't have the money to pay for a four year degree. So she took the fullest of advantage of the of the program. And she did a nail certificate so that she could have that skill to work when she when she went, she's now at UNCC. So she uses that for income generation. And she got all the credits that she was able to get while in high school, so that she was able to cut down the number of years that she had to be in a four year degree. And more and more, I'm seeing that students who plan starting in the ninth grade even though you could only enter the program in the 11th grade, you start planning in the ninth grade, so that you take the classes that you have to take at the high school between ninth and 10th grade so that come 11th grade, you're able to take as many classes as possible at the college. And those are the success stories. Anybody who comes in and does well. It's a success story. But the students who are able to have them advantage are the planners, the ones that that plan ahead and take as many classes as as we can offer. And I'm sure that Emily has a very interesting case to share as well.


Emily Balwin  23:11

What I was going to say just like Flora said, I wanted to preference the story, I was going to share it with anybody that comes even if you're only taking one class, and you get the see it better and transfer it to a four year school, or you get the grades to complete a certificate. Those are all success stories. And I have a couple in mind, one that I'm working currently with their current CCP students, their set of quadruplets, who they know that money is tight. Their parents will have five kids in college at the same time because they have an older brother. So the girls instead of quadruplets are rising seniors and they are currently working very diligently. They are athletes at their hospital. They participate in CO curricular activities on their hospital campus. are working diligently to complete that associate's degree, all four of them by May of 2021, when I graduate from hospital, So currently, I think they're, like 33 hours into their their degree. So they're halfway to completion. So it's really what you put your mind to as far as the successful completion or how you take advantage of this program. Some others, I have a set of twins actually, that they're kind of in the same place, single parent home, no money that will will be tie for them. And so they're trying to do the same thing. They have also gotten involved on our campus, because they are taking more than nine credit hours a semester. That means they actually pay a student activity fee and can participate in those student activities on campus. So they're taking advantage of our student life while still in hospital, but they'll finish with their associate's degree as well at the end of 2021 or the 2021 school year, but I also have students who you know, they know that they want to do something with early childhood. So I have one student in particular that you know, to work in a daycare, you need that credential class. And part of the CCP certificate is Edu 119, which gives the credential to work in a daycare setting. So they're taking that while they're still in hospital. So when they graduate, they're ready to go in and start working. And then they can work and continue their education or they can work with the certificate they got through CCP. So that student is at a local daycare and in thriving. So it's really, you know, how how the family decides that this program is to work for them, then we can make that work. So conversations with mom, dad and student are really important and communicating that with Florida and making sure we're in the loop just makes them that much more successful. Yes. And as unfortunate as the current moment is a moment that none of us want to be in. It also provides us with some opportunities, everybody's deciding what to do. And like how we started at the program, we are a good choice for parents and students who want to take advantage of we don't need COVID. Right to make us a good choice for families. Right? We but but we are a great choice for students who are in high school and beyond.


Jason Huddle  26:26

Just to drive the point home. We actually had Dr. Spaulding on several months ago, and we were just talking about how a lot of people are choosing even people who have graduated high school, they're choosing Community College to go ahead and get the GC out of the way, get it get those general classes, get two years of college education at a considerably reduced rate. And then transferring on to a four year. I mean, nobody asked where you have your four year degree. They didn't say Well, where do you spend your first two years they just see the degree right? So why not get those those things so even if you don't complete your associate's in the time that you are taking the college career Promise Program still completed, my son did the same thing. He did not get his associates right out of the college career Promise program, he actually had to stay two more semesters as a traditional community college students. But now he has an associate's degree. The great thing about the associate's degree is any college in the university system, the UNC system is obligated to take all the credits if you have an associate degree, they're obligated to take all those credits. Is that correct?


Flora Calderon-Steck  27:33

Yes. Yes. Because of the articulation agreements that we have. Yes.


Jason Huddle  27:36

Right, so once you have that associate's degree, I mean, you're you're going in as a junior wherever you transfer, so and and it shows them then you have what it takes to do college level classes. So I think it's a great call all around.


Flora Calderon-Steck  27:52

It is and even those hard lessons about when not doing great. You, it's a good enviroment to learn how to how to be an advocate for yourself how to reach out to the resources that the college offers the tutoring center, the Counseling Center, advocate with the instructor. So these are good lessons to learn in a in a smaller setting with a smaller class size that in a 400 auditorium class where you're easily lost. So the goods and the bads are better at a community level college. You're going to be ready to to run once you go into a four year school.


Jason Huddle  28:29

Beautiful, before I let you ladies go, why don't you tell people how they can get started this process to apply for the college career Promise program.


Flora Calderon-Steck  28:36

Oh, that's wonderful. Yes. So go to our website, www RCCC dot edu and you can just type in CCP for career and college promise and the website will come up both Emily and my name or the bottom. Just give us a call or an email. We will be delighted to walk you through the process. Everything that you need to know is on the website.


Emily Balwin  28:59

Another key component for our students that are enrolled in our public school system. So Cabarrus County schools or Kannapolis City Schools, work with your guidance counselor to can help you kind of initiate those first steps. Again, it is a partnership between us and or local high school. So they need to know as much as we do have your interest in this program. So I would recommend not only going to check out the website that Flora just shared but also communicate with your local high school when you're in this program.


Jason Huddle  29:33

Right cause the guidance counselor's have to sign off on this right dont they have to fill out some stuff too? Right, okay, wonderful. Flora, Flora Calderon-Steck. And Emily Balwin, thank you both for being on the program today. And we look forward to talking to you in the future. Hopefully some students will hear this program and come running to you guys, and you'll have to let us know how it goes.


Emily Balwin  29:57

Thank you, Jason.


Jason Huddle  29:58

All right. Thank you both. Well Be back to wrap up the program in just a moment. Stay tuned.


Commercial  30:03



Jason Huddle  31:17

I am slightly over on my time this week, so, I'm going to close out the show pretty quickly. Just want to tell you this episode was not necessarily meant as an endorsement for the College Career Promise program. I'm simply trying to provide knowledge of alternate opportunities that parents and students can take. In this uncertain COVID-19 educational world. I encourage you to be on the lookout for our upcoming edition in August of this magazine. It's going to be all about education. It's called the new face of education because education does have a new face literally and figuratively. It looks nothing like it did a year ago and quite frankly I can't even recognize the teachers because of the masks. That's a whole nother discussion that will save for another time. As we have five weeks in July and I am going on vacation next week. I'm taking next week off so we will see you again in two weeks. Until then, this has been Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo Media Group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Cabarrus Eyeenter, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Level Up Realty, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. As always, please remember to support those that support us. I've been your host Jason Huddle. Until next week, go pick up a book and study.

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