Making education work in Kansas City

KU Edwards Campus helps College Now teachers through course offerings and scholarships

Students working on laptops, instructor assisting

The challenge? Protecting advanced learning for more than 3,000 local students in Kansas City area high schools. 

The solution? Provide low-cost, high-quality graduate-level courses needed for high school teachers to meet new mandated instructor qualifications. 

KU Edwards Campus to the rescue.

KU Edwards Campus (KUEC) has made its mission to serve the Kansas City region as the go-to partner for addressing community needs with innovative education solutions. So when the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) updated the standards required to teach College Now courses in high school five years ago, dozens of working teachers needed to head back to school. College Now allows high school students to receive college credit through a partnership with Johnson County Community College (JCCC).

The new qualifications required instructors teaching the College Now classes to have a master’s degree with at least 18 hours in the subject area in which they were teaching. The problem was two-fold. One, although many teachers had master’s degrees, they were not in the subject areas they were teaching. Two, there were few offerings for graduate-level courses in those high school subject areas offered after school hours or online. 

Since 2016, the KU Edwards Campus has supported these high school teachers by delivering the courses they need, at the right time, and for the right price. KUEC was able to reduce tuition and fee costs for College Now instructors by providing students with KU Edwards sponsored scholarships and leveraging the KU Edwards MetroKC tuition rate. In addition, the Sherman Family Foundation helped fund $50,000 in scholarships through KU Endowment.  This program will continue through Summer 2021 as these instructors complete their final courses towards the requirement.

“The impact of this program will be long-lasting and of critical importance to many, many Kansas City-area high schoolers and their families,” said Joseph Allen, executive director of the foundation located in Mission Woods, Kansas. “The Sherman Family Foundation has been proud to partner with KU Edwards Campus in its efforts to ensure that area teachers can access the graduate-level coursework necessary to qualify to teach dual credit classes in the high schools they serve and do so at an affordable cost.”

Amy Osipik, a calculus teacher at Olathe Northwest High School in the College Now program, said the Sherman Foundation scholarship made it easier for her to obtain the necessary credits in the JCERT-funded Applied Statistics, Analytics and Data Science program to continue teaching dual credit courses at her high school. 

“I knew I was facing a big hurdle in being able to pay for all of my hours,” she said, “but I also knew that this process needed to be completed so that my students could benefit from the partnership with the local community college. This scholarship took that stress away and allowed me to focus on completing the courses while continuing to teach.”

Osipik said her students benefited greatly from her ability to teach the dual credit courses.

“For many of them, it allows them to fulfill math requirements for their degrees before leaving a high school setting,” she said. “They benefit from having instruction in a smaller setting and being able to get individual assistance. This also allows them to take a typical semester course over an entire year so I can go more in-depth with the content.”

Nearly 100 College Now dual enrollment instructors have utilized this partnership scholarship with $177,200.74 awarded in scholarships since its inception in the summer of 2016. KU Edwards Campus began offering teachers graduate-level courses in biology, chemistry, communication, English, environmental studies, journalism, math/statistics, and Spanish to satisfy new HLC requirements. These teachers represented a variety of Kansas City private and public school districts including Baldwin, Bishop Miege, Blue Valley, DeSoto, Olathe, Shawnee Mission, Spring Hill, St. James Academy, and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

“Bringing high-quality education programs that meet local economic and community needs is what we do,” said Stuart Day, dean of the KU Edwards Campus and School of Professional Studies. “So, when our partners at the Johnson County College Now program approached us about the need for these affordable courses, we went to work figuring out a way to make it happen. Thankfully, KU Endowment was able to secure a generous gift from the Sherman Family Foundation to help offset the tuition costs for this important program.”

The College Now collaboration between local high schools and JCCC continues to thrive, annually providing collegiate-level education credits to 3,000 advanced-placement and high-ability students while they complete high school curriculum requirements. The College Now program remains important to the Kansas City region’s educational ecosystem, particularly for JCCC, which receives 20% of its overall enrollment from College Now students.

“This program through KU has been a lifesaver for me,” Osipik said, “and will allow me to continue to provide college-level instruction in a high school setting which is the best of both worlds.”

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