June 18, 2017 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Rapids Public Schools leaders said Monday they are committed to growing an already strong partnership to ensure that all city students have opportunities for success.
GRCC President Bill Pink and GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal signed memorandums of understanding on Monday that extend agreements for the Grand Rapids Learning Center program and concurrent enrollment opportunities for district students.
The programs are among a growing number of partnerships and collaborations that create a seamless transition between the school district and GRCC, preparing students for a successful future and strengthening the city overall. Pink and Weatherall Neal announced Monday they are focused on creating more opportunities for students.
"Grand Rapids has made tremendous strides in recent years, but our schools, our college and our city as a whole can't truly thrive unless everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential," Pink said. "That means we, as a community, need to do more to help reach all of our students, helping them overcome any barriers to get the K-12 and college education they need. Superintendent Weatherall Neal is the right person at the right time for this effort. Together, we are committed to collaborating to ensure that more students gain in-demand skills for careers and transfer credits to continue their education."
Pink said collaborations include efforts to make a college education more affordable and accessible, and partnering with the district to offer support for students for whatever obstacles they face.
The district and college will also build on collaborations with the business and philanthropic communities, helping students overcome challenging circumstances and providing opportunities to explore and gain skills for future careers.
Pink said GRCC is proud to partner with Weatherall Neal, a Grand Rapids Junior College alumna who is a forceful advocate for her district’s students and their families.
“GRCC and GRPS have a rich history, but also a bright future ahead of us,” Weatherall Neal said. “Education is the pathway to success. We maintain a strong partnership with GRCC and work with the college to remove barriers to success so all students can reach their potential.”
The number of GRPS graduates attending GRCC is on the rise, up nearly 10 percent since 2016, with 813 students enrolled last fall.
The number of GRPS students dual-enrolled in GRCC classes has skyrocketed: a nearly 87 percent increase since 2016.
About 50 GRPS students have enrolled in GRCC's Early/Middle College, a 13th-year experience that gives students an opportunity to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an associate degree. They are dual-enrolled in high school and college courses, with tuition and fees for the college courses covered by the K-12 district’s state aid.
The Early/Middle College program is one of several GRCC-GRPS initiatives created or strengthened during the past year, including:
- The Challenge Scholars Program, which allows students at Union High, Harrison Park Middle and Westwood Middle schools to earn up to four years of tuition-free college at GRCC and other colleges and universities. GRCC success coaches work with the students to help them grow academically and explore opportunities for postsecondary education and careers.
- A GRCC associate dean who is assigned to focus full time on GRPS students, working with them, their families and their schools to ensure they are aware of opportunities and assistance available for them and help them through the admissions process.
- The Summer Learning Academy Cruisin’ to College program, in which students earn college credit, improve college math skills, explore career opportunities, and visit area colleges and universities to give them the tools to be successful in their post-secondary academic a career.
- GRCC is the host of the Grand Rapids Learning Center, a program designed to meet the needs of students up to age 20 who are returning to complete their high school education before transitioning to being full-time college students and preparing for careers. About 90 students were enrolled in the program last year.
Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.