Tennessee Valley Early College (TVEC) at Cleveland State is a new partnership program between the college and local school systems designed to allow students to pursue college credit at the same time they are earning a high school diploma.   This goal is achieved by engaging students in a rigorous high school curriculum tied to the incentive of earning college credit during their freshman and sophomore years and of taking traditional college courses on CSCC’s campus during their junior and senior years.

Developing an early college program emerged as an important goal of the Community First 2020 Plan. The efficacy of early college programs at improving student learning is supported by national research which has shown that students engaged in this model of instruction are significantly more likely to earn college degrees than other students while at the same time accruing less educational debt and having the opportunity to begin their careers early (thus having the opportunity for higher lifetime earnings). This fit in well with our strategic plan goal “to offer relevant programs that satisfy needs of students and the workforce and deliver them in modes that maximize student engagement and completion.”

In the fall of 2015, Cleveland High School expressed interest in inaugurating our first TVEC program beginning the very next year. Our team worked furiously to research and outline a program that would apply what we were learning about guided pathways to the design of Tennessee Valley Early College. Faculty and staff from both institutions met for intensive work sessions that compared high school graduation requirements with college degree requirements. In addition, they considered the challenge of developmentally preparing students for the rigor and responsibility of college-level academic work as well as the financial structures that impact student participation, attempting to minimize cost while maximizing opportunity for student achievement.

In the end, TVEC is designed as a four-year program in which students move through the first two years on the high school campus enrolled in primarily high school coursework, some of which prepares students for dual credit assessments that award college credit. The third and fourth years of study are primarily college courses taken on the the college campus. These courses are used to satisfy high school graduation requirements and are applicable to a specific college degree program. Students are supported through their program by dual advising provided by a dedicated staff member at the high school and support from specifically identified staff at the college. TVEC students also have dual citizenship, as it were, with privileges at both their home high school and the Cleveland State campus.

Thirty-five rising freshman at Cleveland High School were selected through a rigorous process to participate in the program beginning Fall 2016. These students will have the opportunity to pursue a degree through one of three pathways:

  • College Transfer Pathway:  This sequence of courses allows a student to graduate with a General Transfer, A.S.  Students are able to tailor their studies towards their individual career goals by using the Tennessee Transfer Pathways, which focus on preparatory study in programs such as pre-health professions, education, criminal justice, art, social work, engineering, business administration, and many more.  Upon completion, students will be able to articulate their degree to any state college or university and many of Tennessee’s private institutions where they could enter college with junior academic status.
  • Mechatronics Pathway: A blend of electrical controls, mechanical systems, robotics, welding and occupational safety classes are included in the mechatronics pathway preparing students to graduate with their Associate of Applied Science Degree armed with a highly desirable skill set for today’s advanced manufacturing workplace.
  • Business: Students may elect to prepare for the business profession through a transfer pathway listed above on their pursuit to a four-year degree.  For students interested in a more direct and immediate career path, a pathway has been developed to lead to the Associate of Applied Science Degree.  Classes in this pathway include an Introduction to Business class along with specialized courses in Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Accounting, Finance and Economics.

We are working with additional school systems to bring the opportunities of Tennessee Valley Early College at Cleveland State to students and families throughout our service area. We see this as a way to serve our community by providing high quality access to those young people eager to accelerate their futures and ready to embark on their college pathway to a rewarding career. Its another way we put Community First.