OC offers more dual credit in region

With approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Odessa College can now offer dual credit courses across nine sites in Ector County and throughout its service area.

“What is great is once they’ve given us approval, we can then offer pretty much any program that is offered on the main campus at any of those sites,” Vice President for Academic Partnerships Jonathan Fuentes said.

That includes any associate or certificate program. Fuentes said his department has partnered with nearly every school district in Odessa College’s service area to bring opportunities to students wherever they are.

The sites are already providing dual credit courses, so OC asks for approval from SACS and they want to offer more courses.

“For example, like in Balmorhea, we have an instructor who teaches business education courses, office assistant courses. Once you want to offer a certain percentage so say we’re going to offer 50% of the certificate. We ask SACSCOC for permission to offer 50% of that certificate face to face and once they give the approval they’re basically giving us the approval to then offer that program and other programs at Balmorhea High School,” Fuentes said.

If they are offering four or more of those courses face to face and there are eight courses on the certificate, then the college needs SACSCOC approval, Fuentes said.

“We can roll out programs, but once you hit a certain threshold, you have to then have formal approval,” Fuentes said.

The nine sites are Rankin, Permian and Odessa high schools, Andrews High School, Seminole, New Tech Odessa, Balmorhea, Van Horn and the Frost Center at ECISD.

OC partners with nearly every school district in its service area to bring opportunities to students wherever they are.

Fuentes said OC can also offer courses at their centers in Andrews, Pecos and Monahans. This approval is for high schools.

Sewell Auto Tech is already approved as a dual credit site.

“It comes down to does the high school have the face-to-face instructor to offer more than half of a program, if that is the case. It can also be core, so if … we’re able to offer 50% of the core … so 21 hours of core face-to-face at that campus, then we’d go out for that approval, too. But we love that it often opens up all these other possibilities where it’s like this site is now approved so we can then run an auto program at night or a welding program at night and we can work with school districts to expand,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes said it is an OC instructor, but a district employee.

“They still have to go through our approval process, like our qualifying process to be a faculty member on our side,” Fuentes said.

“They work as an adjunct faculty here for the courses they’re going to teach dual credit,” he added.

But they are employees of the district they’re in.

They can teach adjunct courses for OC, but virtually.

Most of the courses taught at the high schools are in person, which Fuentes said is great.

“We offer our courses in a multitude of ways. We do some online courses for dual credit, but we also have these options for face to face courses. We even do some horses where we’re trying to conference out through technology; some seek synchronous courses out to these locations, too, so we try to offer them a variety of ways,” Fuentes said.

This enables Odessa College to reach even more students in some of the more remote parts of its service area.

“We love when we can qualify a teacher out in these school districts because we think that it gives dual credit students options. Some students want the face-to-face, and especially think about CTE programs. A lot of those are very hands-on, so we need face to face instructors in those locations … so it does create opportunities for more students,” Fuentes added.

Odessa College has more than 3,000 dual credit students. These are current OC students.

“… We love to see them matriculate after they graduate and go ahead and finish degrees and even in those early college high school scenarios, and even in some of our other areas where they finish full associate degrees, then they’re able to come into our bachelor degrees, too,” Fuentes said.

He added that OC is really proud of the work their dual credit students are doing.

“They are really achieving at high levels,” Fuentes said.

He added that being able to offer courses at the high schools throughout the service area will help the college reach its goal of 10,000 students.

“It definitely has been a big part of our goals. I think when we think about OC 10,000, we think regionally. I think it’s going to take all communities coming together and sending more students through Odessa College. This gives us the regional approach that we need in order to get to OC 10,000. We know we need to do more in the region for educational attainment and this is the way we get there,” Fuentes said.

He added that the Permian Basin is putting a large emphasis on educational attainment regionally.

“We’re working on educational attainment and I love to see that we’re all coming together to make this happen. Again, it has to be a regional approach. I think we all rise and fall together and this is what our industry and our workforce needs in order for people from here to take the jobs that are available to them,” Fuentes said.

It used to be that jobs in the oilfield didn’t require any postsecondary education, but that’s not the case now.

“I think so many of the jobs in the oil and gas sector and other sectors, too, if you’re wanting to move up, they’ve become highly technical and so I think that you need to think about what are those skills and the certifications … that will put you to work in those jobs. I think there are a lot of lucrative careers right now; oil and gas; retail and service. I think there are lots of lucrative careers but I think you have to be thinking about what are the skills, the certificates, the education I need in order to get those entry-level jobs and then to keep moving up into their careers. I think that’s what expanding in this way really helps us, because again, we pull from all over the region to fulfill the job needs of industry here,” Fuentes said.

He added that industry needs people now, but they also want to see people advance in their careers.

“So they need people to come to work with a certain level of skills and then in order to take that promotion, they need to pick up additional skills. That’s where I think industry and education work together and they work hand in hand to make sure that the employees are ready to take that step up when the time comes and it really is them working together,” Fuentes said.