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Education Council Recommends Updating College Courses For High School Program

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Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer's education council says a state program should pay more of the job-training costs for high school students taking college classes.

The Excel in Career and Technical Education(Excel in CTE) initiative covers the tuition costs of students taking technical college courses while the students are still in high school. During the fiscal year of 2017, the program had cost about $24 million.

The council is suggesting that fees associated with the courses be covered too, though it's possible business partners, colleges or high schools would pay instead of the state. Currently, it's inconsistent who is responsible for the sometimes thousands of dollars in fees, with students in some cases bearing the cost.

The Excel in CTE initiative, also known as Senate Bill 155, was signed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback in 2012. In 2017, more than 10,000 high school students participated. Part of the goal of the program was to get more students earning credentials in jobs that had a high need for workers.

"It has been a tremendous winner for students and the economy of Kansas," said Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson. "We just want to make it even better so that more kids will take the opportunity to enter the workforce."

The council also said what college courses are covered by the program should be reconsidered. Despite the program's initial vision of focusing on jobs with high pay and a high need for workers, one member of the council said that almost "anything and everything" is being covered. The Kansas Board of Regents is currently evaluating what programs should and shouldn't be included.

Colyer's education council was formed in March of this year to both advise the governor on education issues and to lead to further partnerships between the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas State Department of Education.

The council is working on guidance for schools and businesses looking to partner for work-based-learning opportunities, where students work for school credit. According to the council, businesses have been reluctant to work with schools because of uncertainty over liability and insurance issues. A partnership between state agencies is also recommended to better track the outcomes of high school graduates who skip college.

"That's a big move because it will help strengthen our data coming out of K-12 and then it will help us improve our program while students are in high school," Watson said.

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.