large group of Waipahu High School students

Early College students at Waipahu High School

The U.S. Department of Education invited Leeward Community College to be one of only 44 postsecondary institutions nationwide to participate in an experiment that—for the first time—allows high school students taking college-credit courses to access Federal Pell Grants. Leeward CC is the only higher education institution in the State of Hawaiʻi selected for the project. Pell grants are for qualifying low-income individuals and do not have to be repaid.

The federal project seeks to expand college access through dual enrollment programs, such as Early College, in which students enroll in college courses while enrolled in high school. Dual enrollment is a promising approach to improve academic outcomes for students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds.

“Dual enrollment programs are powerful ways to introduce rigorous coursework to students and show these students that they are smart enough, talented enough and prepared enough to tackle higher education. Dual enrollment programs are game changers for all students—especially those who are first-generation or from low-income families,” said Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “Through this experiment, we hope to learn how the availability of Pell Grants affects student participation and success in dual enrollment programs.”

Leeward’s dual enrollment a program huge success

Leeward Community College

Leeward CC is a leader in dual enrollment programs, coordinating Early College, JumpStart, Running Start and Early Admit options. These programs have grown dramatically, totaling more that 500 high school participants in spring 2016. Leeward’s Early College program alone, where college courses are offered at the high school campuses, has witnessed more than 1000 percent increase in less than four years, with 41 students enrolled in fall 2012 and 460 in spring 2016.

The participation in the federal Pell Grant experiment will enable an additional 30 students per year from the partnering high schools—Waipahu, Campbell and Waiʻanae high schools to participate in Leeward’s Early College program. With the expansion of the Early College partnership, students will be able to choose and pursue formal programs of study and then access the courses relevant to those degree programs.

Leeward CC Chancellor Manny Cabral credits the college’s counselors, division chairs, support staff, Early College teaching faculty and deans for the success of the program.

“Over the past four years, Leeward has provided successful early college courses to several of our area high schools. In particular, we’ve had an incredible synergy working with Waipahu High School and Principal Keith Hayashi and Mark Silliman. Several of the Waipahu High School students are already members of our PTK national honor society. I look forward to the first Waipahu High School Olympians who started in their freshman year and who will be completing their AA degree at the same time they receive their high school diploma in 2018.”

“This is a well-deserved recognition of the Leeward Community College faculty, staff and leadership pulling together to help students achieve their goals and dreams through higher education,” said University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner. “Early College has proven to be a successful strategy in Hawaiʻi and around the country and Pell Grant eligibility may be a critical tool in helping us scale it up for those in greatest need.

Dual enrollment a gamechanger

Earning a college degree is an increasingly important step towards entering the middle class. Yet less than 10 percent of children born in the bottom quartile of household incomes attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to over 50 percent in the top quartile. Many high school students—especially those from low-income backgrounds—lack access to the rigorous coursework and support services that help prepare them for success in college.

While dual enrollment models have shown promising academic outcomes for students, cost can be a barrier. Through this experiment, an estimated 10,000 high school students will have the opportunity to access approximately $20 million in Federal Pell Grants to take dual enrollment courses provided by colleges and high schools throughout the nation.

“We are incredibly proud that Leeward was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of just 44 innovative institutions across the country that will pioneer this gamechanger for our nation,” said Lassner.

Read the Leeward Community College news release for more information.