Making College a Reality

ACC and AISD team up to create more collegians

Austin Community College president Robert Aguero knows how mystifying college can seem for students whose relatives haven't gone through the experience. He likes to recall a presentation he was giving a group of potential first-generation college students, in which he explained that a normal college load is 12 hours.

"Finally one student raised his hand and said, 'You know, I want to go to college, but I don't know if I can go 12 hours a day,'" said Aguero.

It is these kinds of misconceptions that ACC and AISD are hoping to dispel through a new College Connection program announced on Thursday. In what Aguero describes as "a hand-holding process," all seniors at AISD's 12 high schools will undergo a barrage of workshops, counseling sessions, and college fairs designed to help them hit testing and financial aid deadlines and to nail down the notion that post-secondary education is an inevitable part of their futures. Then, at the end of the semester, every AISD grad will be given a letter of acceptance to ACC. The idea, says AISD superintendent Pat Forgione, is to make college not just a vague aspiration, but a "natural progression from high school."

"At graduation I often ask students what they plan to do, and they say they want to go to ACC but they often haven't acted on it," he said. "If it's May and it hasn't been acted on, it's not going to be acted on."

The College Connection program is the latest in a series of ACC-AISD partnerships: AISD has also subcontracted with ACC to run its career and technology programs, and AISD students can participate in dual-credit programs in which students can earn ACC credit for classes they take in high school. (Perhaps as a next step, AISD could eliminate the middleman altogether and subcontract with ACC for an entire dual-credit high school experience, in which students graduate from high school with a college degree.) But in any case, many students will no doubt appreciate AISD's efforts to smooth the bumps between wanting to go to college, and actually making it to class.

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