Q&A with Santa Fe South Schools Superintendent Chris Brewster
Q: How did concurrent enrollment become a part of Santa Fe South?
A: When Santa Fe South was first started, we were considering either AP classes or concurrent enrollment. We decided to invest in concurrent enrollment because it guaranteed that if a student passed a course they would receive college credit. It would get them ready for college, allow experience in the college classroom, and introduce a lot of our students to the college itself. We wanted students to get started in college and concurrent enrollment seemed the best way to go for us at that time.
Q: Why did you choose to include Pathways Middle College in the concurrent program?
A: Before we absorbed Pathways, we already had concurrent classes coming in through partnership with Santa Fe South and OCCC. Pathways Middle College existed because Oklahoma City had started the program in 2002 or 2003. It didn’t meet it’s original mission which was to allow students to accrue college hours or earn an associate’s degree. About 7 years ago, there was an announcement to close the program. The faculty reached out to us through a mutual non-profit friend organization and asked if we would consider keeping the school functioning. I went and checked it out and spoke to our board and we agreed that if we could pull it off, we would absorb Pathways Middle College into Santa Fe South. Pathways doubled in size from about 100 to a little over 200 students now but the most significant difference is that students are actually accumulating enough hours to consistently earn associate’s degrees. This year, 70% of the seniors will earn their associate’s two weeks before they graduate high school. In all of the years combined before we took it over, only one student had earned an associate degree. We’ve had about 110 associate degrees earned to this point and we’ll have about 150 by the end of this year.
Q: What are some benefits of concurrent specifically for your students at Santa Fe South?
A: Many of our students at Santa Fe South come from families that have not, historically, had college education as a part of what their family has achieved. This allows many of our first gen students, the first generation to attend college, to be able to succeed. One of the hurdles we get over for them is that we pay all tuition fees and books associated with the cost. Finally, it enables us to support the students who are in concurrent enrollment with teachers, with principals, with assistants and tutoring in ways that are a little bit different than when you just go off to college. If you’re in concurrent enrollment at Santa Fe South, we see your grades, we work with you to pass classes, so it’s been really successful for our students to be a part of this concurrent enrollment program.
Q: Do you think your students who participate in concurrent enrollment are more likely to continue on to college after graduating high school?
A: The data shows us that they are more likely to complete a four-year degree if they have had an associate’s degree beforehand. We know that in general. I don’t know the exact statistics that apply to our Saints but we have seen many of our students start at OCCC and trickle on to OU, OSU, or even out of state colleges. So we believe it to be a highly successful program for students who go on to their four-year degree.
Q: Have you had any resistance with taxpayers in continuing the concurrent program at Santa Fe South? Have they questioned whether it’s beneficial for the students?
A: We’ve seen not a decrease but an increase in funding over time despite the fact that we have gone through several cycles of difficult financing. I think the taxpayers understand the return on invest for their taxes has been tremendous to the state. To this time, we see no hesitation for our state to support this program. There’s never been a question whether it hasn’t been beneficial from our perspective at all. On occasion students aren’t as successful as we like but generally speaking, by the time they get in the program, they earn, if not an associate’s degree, a sizable number of hours toward their college degrees when many of our students would’ve had no other way to do so.