The ACE and BOLD Programs at Shasta College
By Claudia Mosby
By Claudia Mosby
Michelle Gambill’s story is a familiar one. She started working while in high school and, after graduating, continued to work while beginning college. Although she tried for a while to balance both, her rapid career advancement forced her to choose – and she chose work.
An area supervisor for a national restaurant chain with oversight of 200 employees, Gambill also co-owns and operates NorCal Limousine Services with her husband. “I am happy at my job, so going back to school to find a new one was not my motivation,” she says. “I wanted to return to school for personal reasons, to complete what I did not complete earlier in my life.”
Whether simply for the satisfaction of accomplishment or for the purpose of career advancement, full-time workers seeking to complete their degree sooner rather than later can now do so through Shasta College’s Associate Completion in the Evenings (ACE) program. Classes meet two evenings per week and online.
On the surface, the 24-month program may not sound accelerated, says Buffy Tanner, the interim senior project coordinator for ACE; after all, it equates to the amount of time a full-time student would invest to complete a two-year degree.
Tanner explains: “The typical working adult usually takes only one or two classes per semester, which would mean degree completion in an average of four to seven years. ACE students, however, take two classes in each of two eight-week tracks, completing four courses per semester and two additional courses per summer.”
Bill Alcala also began ACE in the first cohort. When a work injury forced him into an office job, he began attending the college for an engineering program that was later eliminated.
“I did not know what I was going to do,” says Alcala, who was plugging away at his general education requirements before discovering ACE last spring. “I have completed 10 classes since June and have been managing it pretty well.” Alcala is among the one third of ACE students who are 40 and over.
“My wife once asked me, ‘Do you have homework?’” he recalls. “I told her, ‘I’ll have homework until I graduate.’ I’m never not in school. When we camped last summer, I had my laptop with me and did schoolwork because I was taking two online classes.”
Time management is critical, and Alcala says, “If you are going to jump into the program, you really need to think about the family and school-life balance. It may only be six hours a week in the classroom, but the outside investment of time is triple that amount.”
Still, he says, life cannot be only about schoolwork: “You have to set aside a few hours on the weekend for recreation.”
This month, ACE celebrates its first anniversary and will graduate its first cohort in November. Designed for students with “some college, no degree,” it currently enrolls 81 students in two associate degree pathways – business and psychology with offerings to expand.
Gambill, who will graduate Shasta College with associate degrees in business and physical science, says, “I’ve enjoyed it so much, I’ll be entering Simpson’s ASPIRE Program next January for a bachelor’s degree in business administration.”
Alcala is considering his next steps, perhaps an associate degree in accounting. “The program is fabulous,” he says. “Without it, people like me would be working all week and taking a night class. A two-year degree would turn into 10. This program makes it attainable.”
ACE and a second program, Bachelor’s through Online and Local Degrees (BOLD), are funded by a $5 million dollar Innovation Award from the state of California that primarily recognized Shasta College for its dual enrollment programs with local high schools.
The award carried some flexibility, however, that Tanner says allowed for the establishment of both ACE and BOLD. The college’s success in innovative educational programming resulted in a second award of $2 million this year.
BOLD serves as a support program for students enrolled in an online bachelor’s degree through a partner school. “The student is technically a student of the chosen institution,” says Tanner, “but on the backside, we allow them to take a one-unit student development class at Shasta, which provides them access to our facilities and programs as well as a peer support network while going through their bachelor’s degree.”
Current partners include California State University, Southern Oregon University, Simpson and National universities, Columbia College in Missouri and Western Governors University. All partners must meet key criteria: regional accreditation, affordability and reputability.
“The Shasta College Foundation has committed to covering tuition and campus fees for the Shasta College student development courses taken by the first 100 BOLD students,” says Tanner, noting that the fee waiver is for the one-unit Shasta College classes, not the university tuition and fees.
“It’s not too late to continue your education,” says Tanner. “We will work with you to make use of as many previously completed courses as possible. We want to support you in achieving your goals.”
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