Grayson College officials are looking for new ways to increase the number of people who have attended college and lower barriers for potential students. These ideas include pursing a 100 percent admittance rate for students in the college’s service area and a free course for graduating dual-credit students.
These ideas and others were discussed during a recent meeting of Grayson College’s board of trustees. The move comes amid goals to bring the percentage of Texas residents between the age of 18 and 34 with some college education to 60 percent by the year 2030.
Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen said the efforts to bring the application process to all students in the region at the eighth grade level is a way to introduce them to the college. Through initial consideration, it was determined that high school might be a better starting point.
“By having 100 percent apply to Grayson College, we know not all of them will come here; some are applying and going somewhere else for college,” McMillen said. “But we want them to know they have a home here and that is a start.”
This would combine with efforts to increase the number of students applying for financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, more commonly known as the FAFSA. Early in the process, McMillen said this would involve reaching out to area superintendents on the process and building that relationship, as well as seeing where barriers to student enrollment can be removed.
McMillen noted some students, even those who just graduated from high school, may need remedial math or other catch-up courses prior to taking the college-level courses.
However, McMillen said the topic of college readiness has shifted in recent years. McMillen said the college plans to have 25 percent of students in remedial math in the upcoming school year take these courses alongside the college-level classes. He said the practice has shown success at other campuses.
“College is a relative concept and we ensure the superintendents that we can get the students where they need to be,” McMillen said. “Really, it is us saying, ‘Students, you are welcome here. If you apply to Grayson, we will accept you as you are and believe in you and help you get where you need to be.’”
Board member Debbie Barnes-Plyler voiced her support for the idea, noting that by reaching out to seniors, it could have a trickle-down effect to younger students. McMillen noted the approach will start with seniors, but did not rule out expansion as time goes by.
“If we make those collections with seniors, they collect with 11th graders, 10th graders and ninth grades,” Barnes-Plyler said.
In another approach, McMillen said the college is currently considering offering students who graduate with dual-credit courses through GC their first class for free if they enroll at the college in their first long semester. McMillen said this would help fight what he described as “the summer melt” — where students who intend to attend college upon graduation lose the motivation during the summer break.
Beyond dual-credit students, McMillen said this offer could also apply to articulated-credit students. McMillen defined an articulated-credit student as a student who makes at least an 80 in a course that meets the standards of an existing class at Grayson that is taught by a instructor approved by the college.
McMillen said the idea came from the College Connections course that is offered to new students for free upon enrollment at the school. While most dual-credit students would not make use of this course, McMillen said it might be appropriate to offer them the same courtesy in a different topic.
Through this program, McMillen said the college may elevate the value of the dual-credit course will encouraging students who may not have planned to attend college.
“They start seeing that they have built momentum and that can go on to earn that degree,” he said.
McMillen said there may be some limitations put in place if the program is approved and moves forward. He said there may be a list of courses that can be chosen or a cap on the number of credit hours a free course can be worth.
In another attempt to break down the barrier between students and higher education, McMillen suggested the college enact a program of debt forgiveness for students who return to college. McMillen said the college had many former students who left college mid-semester and still owed the school.
Under the program he proposed, this debt could be resolved if a student returns to college and re-enrolls.
“When they owe us that money, they don’t come back to the college,” McMillen said. “That means that they are never coming to college ever. They are stuck in our community without college being a possibility.”
McMillen said this would apply to debt to the college and not other forms of student loans or related debt.
As an example, McMillen said a portion of government financial aid must be repaid by the college if a student does not complete a certain percentage of a course. Other debts that could be repaid through this approach include dorm fees for incomplete terms.
In many cases, McMillen said the debt owed by these former students is only a few hundred dollars, and would not be easy for the college to collect on. By offering a student a way to resolve this debt, the college is also opening the doors to continued education, McMillen said.
Board member Jackie Butler expressed some concern about the idea, noting that some students simply change schools when they accrue large debt.
“It isn’t preventing them from going to college,” she said. “It is keeping them from going to Grayson.”
McMillen noted that the college is just in the early planning and concept phases, and these and other ideas have not yet been adopted.
“Mainly this is just a dialogue before we move too far down some of these paths,” McMillen said.