College Express' mission is to encourage high school completion, increase postsecondary degree attainment, and provide a skilled workforce.
College Express offers dual credit to over 400 high school juniors and seniors, 16–18 years old, in 16 CTE areas that lead to associate degrees or certificates. Optimally, a high school student enters the program as a junior and attends classes at DACC for 1½ hours each day. At the end of four semesters, a student may have earned 12–16 college credits.
College Express courses are held weekdays on the DACC campus. Tuition, fees, books, and most transportation costs are FREE to the students/families; high school districts pay these expenses for the students.
The initiative that began in Fall 2005 as a cooperative Career and Tech Education opportunity for Vermilion county 11th and 12th graders was as a result of the local area vocational center, known as VOTEC (Vermilion Occupational Technical Education Center) closing its’ doors. DACC and VVEDS (Vermilion Vocational Education Delivery System, an Illinois Education for Employment office) collaborated to offer high school juniors and seniors career and technical education classes on the DACC campus. It was originally known as the “Step Ahead” program. There were thirteen courses with enrollment that first fall from nine county high schools. Currently the program is called College Express and has enrollment in sixteen courses from fifteen area high schools. The first enrollment was 297 and we currently enroll on the average 450 each fall semester. Recently added to our list of courses is the Industrial Technology class which includes an internship opportunity for students. This course reflects our local labor market information showing us as a manufacturing community. To further that information a “Manufacturing Day” experience was offered to area junior high and high school students. Community members, DACC faculty, College Express students and VVEDS staff hosted 650 students.
We estimate that at least 60-70% of our students continue their college experience with DACC. College Express is a great transition program that prepares high school students for the college experience with some safeguards in place. The opportunity to obtain cost-free college credit is a true benefit. Being able to attend classes with students from the area high schools allows them the opportunity to make new friends and work with students from backgrounds different than their own.
College Express students do well in their college coursework and are more likely to complete associate degrees after high school. More than 90 percent of College Express students receive a grade of C or better in their classes. While 42 percent of recent area high school graduates enroll at DACC, 52 percent of graduates who have completed at least two semesters of College Express classes enroll at DACC. Some students have gone directly into the workforce as a result of their College Express coursework. Because of this partnership, it is no longer necessary to duplicate equipment and lab facilities at secondary and postsecondary sites.