By Jessica Farrish
An agreement signed Tuesday between New River Community and Technical College and the West Virginia Department of Education is expected to be a first step in making the transition from high school to college more seamless, officials said Tuesday.
The “memorandum of understanding” signed by New River President Dr. L. Marshall Washington and Dr. Kathy D’Antoni, WVDE associate superintendent, at the Advance Technology Center in Ghent, will establish a “career pathway” for automotive technology students and will lead to certifications and an associate degree without requiring that high school graduates duplicate courses once they’re enrolled at the college.
The MOU will allow high school students to earn up to 24 college credits while receiving certifications in maintenance and light repair (MLR) and automotive service technician (AST) in their secondary, or high school, studies.
When the students graduate and enter the automotive program, they can earn the master automotive technician (MAST) degree at NRCTC.
High school students who complete course requirements and earn the MLR certification will earn 15 college “Earn a Degree-Graduate Early” (EDGE) credits toward the MAST when they enroll in a community and technical college.
Nine additional EDGE credits will be awarded to high school students who earn the AST.
The new pathway is expected to be a model at NRCTC and around the state and is part of a thrust to encourage students to choose post-secondary education.
“We need to start in elementary and middle school to make sure kids know options,” said Amy DeSonia, New River vice-president of Academic Affairs.
DeSonia said that as younger students explore career options, they will be more likely to have an idea of their interests when they’re in high school.
In high school, they may then choose courses that earn college credits — a model D’Antoni said is expected to encourage state students to pursue education past the high school level.
“For the future of the economy in West Virginia, it is critical that secondary and post-secondary work together to create seamless career pathways for West Virginia students,” said D’Antoni. “Everybody wins.
“West Virginia wins. Students win.”
Washington said the program will mean that West Virginia students can stay in state and study.
“This partnership will be a real benefit for students enrolled in high school automotive programs, who wish to continue their training after they graduate,” said Washington. “Previously, students had to travel out of state to receive advanced training, but New River now offers programs in automotive and diesel technology at the Advanced Technology Center.”
Post-secondary training that focuses on tourism and hospitality will be especially beneficial to state students, said DeSonia.
Jim Blair, automotive instructor at the Academy of Careers and Technology in the Raleigh County school system, said the new career pathway is beneficial to Raleigh students who want a career in automotives.
“It will save students money and save them time,” he said.
The ASE-NATEF Master Certified curriculum currently taught in local high schools and at New River prepares students for employment in the automotive service industry as repair technicians, according to a press release.
Successful completion of the high school certifications, the post-secondary MAST requirements and 15 general education requirements leads to an associate’s degree.
DeSonia said administrators are “already plotting” to add similar pathways for students in additional New River programs.
She said the delivery of higher education in West Virginia has changed to meet the needs of students, with most colleges offering online courses and convenient scheduling so that working students have opportunities to earn advanced degrees.
New River Community and Technical College will host an open house in Beckley on July 7 from 4 to 7 p.m.
For more details, call 304-929-6727.