Northwest creates new Office of Early College Programs for dual enrollment needs

One of the fastest growing trends in higher education is dual enrollment (DE) for high school students in college classes. Students who dual enroll are able to earn college credits while still in high school, thereby giving them a “jump start” on their higher education.

Northwest Mississippi Community College has seen its own DE program more than double in size since 2015, and today DE students comprise over 22 % of the college’s population.

In August 2018, Northwest’s new president Dr. Michael Heindl and the administration recognized that the college needed to do more for its growing DE student population, and decided to implement a new department at Northwest to meet this need. The Office of Early College Programs (OECP) was created out of this need.

To head up the new department, Heindl called upon then dean of DeSoto Center, Dr. Jeremy Isome, who had previous to his tenure as evening school director, assistant dean and dean of DeSoto Center, been assistant director of Recruiting for the college. Isome, who recently earned his doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Mississippi, has worked at Northwest for 13 years. In addition to his work as a college administrator, Isome has taught adjunct classes in business administration.

“Over the past several years, the DE program has experienced exponential growth. We are pleased to have a seasoned administrator, Dr. Jeremy Isome, at the helm of this sought -after program. We anticipate continued growth and Dr. Isome and his team have employed many new initiatives to better serve our students,” said Dr. Matthew Domas, vice president of Academic Instruction and College Parallel Programs.

As district dean of OECP, Isome works closely with Dr. Suzanne Strehle, coordinator of Dual Enrollment and Stacy Stewart, OECP administrative assistant to coordinate and facilitate Northwest’s Early College program across its 11-county district.

In order to be considered for enrollment in DE classes, students must have completed 14 high school units, complete a Northwest application for admission, have taken and received official ACT scores, and have a written recommendation from their high school principal or guidance counselor. Homeschooled students must have a transcript with a sworn affidavit and a written recommendation from a parent or legal guardian. If a student has not met the required 14 units, they must have a composite score of 30 on the ACT.

Currently, there are 155 DE sections offered, with 87 at high schools and the rest online. Classes in English, mathematics, history, trigonometry, music, art and biology are among those taught in the dual enrollment program. The classes that are taught on high school campuses are mainly taught by high school teachers, but Isome emphasized that these teachers must meet the same requirements that Northwest instructors do. “We do not deviate on the requirements for teachers or for students. It is the same for them as it is on our campuses and in eLearning,” Isome said. He noted that most of the online classes are taught by Northwest adjunct or full-time instructors.

Isome noted that DE students come mainly from DeSoto, Tate and Lafayette counties, with some from the smaller counties. “It really mirrors the college’s enrollment, actually,” Isome said. He said that the program is also open to private schools.

One of the big projects OECP is working on currently is their Middle College program. According to Isome, they are currently developing a Middle College curriculum and plan on how to implement the program. He explained that in Middle College, juniors in high school who enroll in the Middle College would be able to take a minimum of 15 college hours per semester. They would not take high school classes and would be a full- time Northwest student while in high school. Upon high school graduation, the student would earn both an associate degree and a high school diploma.

“We are looking into starting this program in the near future and working on what we need to offer that would match what is needed to earn the high school diploma concurrently,” Isome said. He explained that Middle College students are different than DE students because they are taking enough hours to be full-time students. He stated that they could take up to 29 hours on their own campus but then would have to go to a Northwest campus or take the additional classes online.

Working together

            Isome and his staff work closely with high school administrators and counselors as well as with the college’s Office of Admissions and Records, Business Office and eLearning department. They are responsible for getting DE students admitted, registered and advised while making sure that DE students get the same level of instruction and service that other Northwest students get. They also have to comply with the requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC), the accrediting agency for community colleges.

“We recently held training in Senatobia, DeSoto and Oxford for all high school counselors who participate in dual enrollment. The training was very well attended. Representatives from our Admissions Department, OECP, eLearning program, Recruiting Department and Helpdesk shared new policies and procedures for the upcoming fall semester with the counselors,” Isome said.

When he took over the OECP, Isome found himself having to hit the ground running. As the DE program grows, he and his staff are seeing what works for the program and molding and changing things in order to improve them and make them work.

“We are trying to improve our processes, implement what SACS-COC has asked us to do, potentially retain the students who are taking college classes and get the Middle College program set up for students who want to graduate from high school with an associate degree,” Isome said.

For more information on the OECP, contact them at dual@northwestms.eduor call the office at 662.562.3235.

Pictured: Dr. Jeremy Isome, center, is the new district dean of Early College Programs at Northwest Mississippi Community College. The Office of Early College Programs (OECP) was formed by administration to address dual enrollment, one of the fastest growing trends in higher education. Assisting Isome in the OECP are (l-r) Stacy Stewart, OECP administrativeassistant and Dr. Susanne Strehle, coordinator of Dual Enrollment. (Photo by LaJuan Tallo)


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