RWU SCS is Creating Pathways for All Students

A look at the programs offered for middle school, high school and nontraditional students at RWU's School of Continuing Studies

Students at practice placing someone on a stretcher.
Advanced Course Network dual enrolled students at RWU's School of Continuing Studies practice with their instructor on properly placing someone on a stretcher in their EMT Basic course.
Juan Siliezar

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – When people think of college students, many people tend to think of traditional students who have graduated high school and are now enrolled in a two-or-four-year institution. But as enrollment in dual credit programs across the country has grown, what constitutes a college student has begun to grow with it.

This is especially true at Roger Williams University's School of Continuing Studies, which has often partnered with districts and schools in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls to serve dual enrolled students. Through the school's dual enrollment programs, middle and high school students from those cities were able to earn college credits and college level certificates from RWU while enrolled in their respective schools - all at no cost.

Over the past year, the school has worked to expand these efforts. Now, through a suite of programs called the Continuing Studies Pathways, it has opened the term "college student" to even more students across the state. And it has created no or low-cost college and career options for students who left high school without a diploma or are not on track to graduate on time, which allows this group of students to re-engage in their education by earning their high school diploma or GED while they earn college credits or a non-credit professional certificate.

Through these programs, the School of Continuing Studies has shown it's focused on one thing: removing barriers to create opportunity for all students to succeed in college and career, including those typically underserved or overlooked for postsecondary study.

The school hopes that by opening no or low-cost pathways for students across the state to access postsecondary education and career training it will help narrow the achievement and skills gaps in Rhode Island - where almost 30 percent of jobs require a college degree - and potentially ease some of the financial burdens that comes with seeking higher education.

"The goal is to provide more high quality and meaningful educational options to whoever needs them," said School of Continuing Studies Dean Jamie Scurry. "Education is about expanding your world knowledge, not limiting it. These programs address how we increase the amount of choices all people have in Rhode Island, not just opening opportunities for a few."

Over the academic year, we will be following each of the Continuing Studies Pathways programs and the School of Continuing Studies other dual enrollment efforts to bring you stories on the student experience and effects these programs have. For now, here's a quick overview of each program:

  • The Advanced Coursework Network (ACN), offered through the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), expands formerly unavailable college credit course options in Rhode Island’s middle and high schools at no cost to families. Along with tuition, RIDE pays for fees, books and any other course materials they may need. At the School of Continuing Studies, middle and high school students can enroll in ACN courses that range from liberal arts, justice studies, community development, EMT Basic, to core classes like math. Students can begin enrolling in ACN courses as early as middle school where they can start with online courses. Students can take up to two courses per school semester, meaning students have the potential to graduate high school with more than a semesters worth of college credits if they take two courses each semester. This has the potential to save them time and money when they become official college students. Students can also receive professional certifications from RWU. Last May, for instance, four of the community development students at the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex in Providence received a certificate in community development, along with 15 college credits. Additionally, the resources available to all SCS students, such as tutoring, student services, etc. are available for ACN students. The School of Continuing Studies currently has the most students enrolled in ACN and is the largest course provider in the network.
  • The Continuing Studies Pathways Programs at the School of Continuing Studies sets students without a high school diploma or GED on paths toward careers. Graduates of the 30-week, in person program receive a university issued noncredit certificate and complete the requirements for their GED or high school diploma while studying at School of Continuing Studies. The certificate received from RWU signals to employers that the student has shown the skills and competencies needed for an entry level job in their area of focus. The low-cost program opens Roger Williams to students who may not have high school credentials, but have demonstrated that they possess the skills necessary to succeed at the postsecondary level. Students are able to access federal financial aid - including Pell Grants - for the program after they complete the Wonderlic Ability-to-Benefit Test, which is U.S. Department of Education-approved and independently administered. Program elements of the Career Pathway program include self and career exploration, skill development, academic preparation, Microsoft Office Specialist training and certification, and, like all RWU programs, project-based learning and engagement with employers. Focus areas are offered in the following areas: Intro to Computers & Cyber Security (starting in October 2017), Business Office Technology (starting in January 2018), Production Planning & Design, and Legal Assistant training.
  • The School of Continuing Studies' Gateway to College program is one 35 programs around the country in the Gateway to College National Network. For the program, the School of Continuing Studies partnered with the Providence and Pawtucket school districts to offer students between the ages of 16-24 who left the district without a diploma - or are not on track to graduate on time - a chance re-engage with their education. Accepted students commit to about 15 hours of class a week for the year-long, Monday to Friday program and graduate with their high school diploma and around 20 to 30 college credits on average, potentially putting students about halfway to an associate’s degree or other certificate. Student schedules differ depending on the number of high school credits they have already completed, but all entering students take a foundational semester together as a cohort, which includes courses such as Introduction to Academic Writing, Math in the Modern World, Mind and Body Wellness, and the First-Year Experience course - which introduces students to navigating and succeeding at the post-secondary level. Tuition and cost of books are covered by the school district the student is admitted from. This year, 28 students are enrolled in the program at the School of Continuing Studies.