Anthony Parker: Ability to Benefit, Move on When Ready can be a boon to region

June 21, 2015- Albany, GA from The Albany Herald- In an effort to boost sagging enrollment, Albany Technical College is pushing two programs to encourage dual enrollment with high school students and another that allows adults to gain a high school equivalency degree (GED) while taking college-level classes.

ATC President Anthony Parker asserts that the college's Ability To Benefit and Move on When Ready programs will benefit students and the region while boosting enrollment numbers.

The Ability to Benefit program will allow a student who is working on his or her GED to receive federal Title IV benefits in the form of a Pell Grant while taking college classes. That program was discontinued in 2012 but was reinstated over the last legislative session.

"The return of the Ability To Benefit program gives people the opportunity to earn their adult education credentials and attend technical college at the same time," Parker said. "This program is directed toward a group of individuals that certainly, if we serve them well, will be economically better off. People need the high school credential or the GED. They can work on getting their GED while at the same time earning college credit."

When ATB went away in 2012, Albany Tech's enrollment numbers took a major hit. Parker said he hopes that reinstatement of the program will help boost ATC's enrollment numbers and benefit the community at large.

"Losing the program in 2012 put a huge dent in our enrollment," Parker said. "We averaged about 400 ATB students per semester in the years prior to 2012. During one semester, we were as high as 600 students. Those students were grandfathered into the program, but new students were not eligible and had to pay out of pocket."

The new policy will take affect July 1, but the first group that will be able to take advantage of the program will be those who start the college's fall semester in August.

"We are extremely pleased with the program's reinstatement," Parker said. "We have a large percentage of adults in our region who do not have high school diplomas or GEDs. They need to get that credential to assist economic developers to recruit industry. The reasons industries located in the Deep South in the early '60s was because there was an untapped labor pool willing to work hard. The reasons you attract industries at this time is because you have a prepared labor pool that is able to work smart.

"One way of measuring that preparation is by the number of individuals who have a high school diploma or GED. Beyond that is the number of people in the community who have work force credentials as defined by a technical college diploma, an associate's degree or a certificate."

The new Move on When Ready dual enrollment program combines the older Accel, HOPE Grant Dual Enrollment, and the previous MOWR program into one. Recent legislation passed by the general assembly was written to expand dual enrollment opportunities throughout the state of Georgia for high school students attending a public college, technical college or university.

Through the new MOWR, high school students in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades deemed eligible by their high school may enroll in college as long as they meet the admissions requirements for the college. There is no cost, and the time spent at the college will not count against the student's Georgia HOPE cap, as long as they are dually enrolled while in high school.

Just last year, four students from the Dougherty County School System graduated from ATC with associate's degrees before graduating from high school.

"If students can begin work at 18 with the credentials they need to participate in the work force, or if they decide to pursue further education, they can enter either area as an advanced student," Parker said. "The fact that (Dougherty County School System Superintendent Butch Mosely) and I know each other and work well together is a major reason we are working on revising the application for a college and career academy in Albany, so we can seek some funding and we can begin that program next year."

A parent forum on MOWR is scheduled July 14 at Albany Tech.

See the original story @ ALBANY HERALD