BY BEN POPALARDO
Governor Dannel P. Malloy visited NCC Friday, April 4th to announce a partnership between NCC, Norwalk High and IBM to create a new educational initiative which allows for high school students to take a mix of high school and college level courses simultaneously.
Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a six year program which spans grades nine through 14. In addition to a mixture of college courses and job training, students are also guaranteed an internship with IBM, the program’s sponsor.
“We want a prepared work force, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring that about,” said Malloy during Friday’s press conference.
According to Malloy, one of the perks of P-TECH is that because students in the program are in high school, college tuition is not a factor, thus alleviating some of the stress that comes from applying to college.
“We want degrees in the state of Connecticut,” said Malloy. “And we want to make that system work as well as it possibly can in making sure our young people get their degrees.”
Senator Richard Blumenthal also commented on the lack of tuition costs, stating that student loans were unrealistic and unnecessary for today’s students.
“Debt free is what this country needs in higher education,” said Blumenthal.
More details were revealed in a later interview with college president David Levinson regarding degree options, the number of students included in the program and cost.
As the program is being sponsored by IBM, only degrees in computer science are available through P-TECH.
100 students will be accepted per year into the program, though the goal would be for more schools to open allowing for more students as well as more variety in degree programs.
“Each year there will be 100 students entering the P-TECH academy,” said Levinson. “The idea is to get other large corporations involved in supporting efforts like this.”
According to Levinson, P-TECH students would be taking classes along side students already enrolled in NCC courses. The goal is for students to take the classes at the college, but some college courses may also be offered directly at the high school.
“We might offer some down there, due to transportation issues, but we certainly will offer them here,” said Levinson.
According to Levinson, students will be attending for free. IBM will be paying for the instructional support in addition to money coming from the state level to help the program.
“What we’re in the process of working out is the tuition reimbursements. It’s a larger conversation we’re having at the state level, because Students will be attending for free,” said Levinson. “But there will be support coming from IBM, there will be support coming from the state, so really I think it’s a win-win.”
While new to Connecticut, P-TECH as a program is already being used in schools in New York and Chicago, some for as long as three years. A goal for Malloy as well as Levinson is for the program to become more widespread. A successful program at NCC would act as an example to pave the way for schools to follow.
“It’s going to make this easier to replicate this program in as many school programs as we possibly can,” said Malloy during his press conference.
Students currently attending NCC have shown positive opinions towards P-TECH. Some wish the opportunity were available sooner.
“I really wish they would have done this when I was in high school,” said student John Pendergast. “It’s going to unlock a lot of potential in students.”
Students also see the financial benefits of the program.
“It’s a good opportunity for the kids; saves a lot of money in this economy,” said student Michael Cropper.
While the degree options are limited, Levinson stressed the importance of the skills taught by the program.
“What’s really good about this program is that it gives you technical skills that are transferable. This is much larger than a training program for IBM,” said Levinson.
One of the goals for P-TECH in the future is to reduce the amount of time students spend working toward their degrees, reducing the time from six years to four.
“The more students can get college credits earlier on, the more they can make better use of their time in school. My hope is we can narrow this down to a five year or even a four year program,” said Levinson.