Laura Capel leaped forward a year when she entered the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2013. She enrolled as a sophomore instead of a freshman, thanks to college credits she accumulated while a senior at Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln High School.
Capel took Exploring Teaching classes at the Tucker Career and College Center, part of the Council Bluffs Community School District, and received credits from Iowa Western Community College.
In March, Capel was accepted into UNO’s College of Education. She anticipates graduating in 2015, one year closer to her dream of being a teacher than she would be without her transferable credits from Iowa Western.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher, but job-shadowing at the Tucker Center solidified that decision,” the future educator said. “You get first-hand experience what it is to be a teacher. Not just sitting in class, but how to be in charge of a classroom.”
Job shadowing is part of the Tucker Center curriculum, said Cyle Forney, principal at the Tucker Center.
“For example, health science students attend a career learning experience at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs at least once a week.”
Forney points to other high school students who have been successful at the center.
Hayley Hochstetler was at Abraham Lincoln High School when she completed a digital photography class at the center. She transferred college credits earned there to Iowa State University, where she majors in journalism and mass communications.
Nick Carman, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, is earning credits by taking auto tech classes at the Tucker Center. He has been accepted for admission this fall to the Milford, Neb., campus of Southeast Community College.
Jenna Dunn took culinary classes at the Tucker Center while an Abraham Lincoln High School student. She earned both high school and college credits through Iowa Western Community College, where she is now a student.
Forney salutes the businesses that support the career and technical education programs. Ellison Technologies is an example. The company donated an industry-standard robot arm for the pre-engineering course and is establishing partnerships with high schools and Iowa Western to create a potential workforce pipeline.
An Iowa State study found students who earned credit while in high school had a higher GPA, earned additional minors and graduated sooner than those who did not have college credit, said Chris LaFerla, Iowa Western Community College dean of admissions and records.
“High school students in Iowa earn almost twice as many college credits than the national average,” he said.
By Iowa law, all ninth- through 12th-grade students are eligible to earn credits if they meet the college’s requirements and demonstrate proficiency in all areas of Iowa’s test of basic skills.
Every school in Iowa is required to provide an opportunity for students to participate. The school districts pay and the State of Iowa provides funding.
Students using college credit for other goals, such as study abroad, might otherwise not have been able to do so and still graduate within the expected date.
From 15 percent to 30 percent of students in the districts served by Iowa Western enroll in college-level credit while in high school. Iowa Western has 1,600 high school students taking college credit courses — about 22 percent of the school’s total head count.
LaFerla says there are many benefits to completing college credit while in high school.
“It takes less time to graduate in college. ... It helps ease that transition from high school to college. The school district in most cases pays for fees, tuition.’’