Cecil College develops alliance to open state-wide pathways for student success
NORTH EAST, Md. – Cecil College has taken the lead on an innovative collaboration between six community colleges to increase opportunities for students across Maryland. The newly formed Maryland Education Alliance (MEA) has created opportunities for students to earn the desired associate degree or certificate by completing course work uniquely offered by another community college.
The MEA currently consists of Anne Arundel Community College, Cecil College, Chesapeake College, College of Southern Maryland, Harford Community College, and Prince George’s Community College. These six community colleges serve nine counties of eastern, southern, and central Maryland.
This alliance creates opportunities for community colleges to share resources and expertise, meet community needs, and generate cost savings for the colleges that can be passed on to students. The MEA creates a clear, seamless pathway for students to move from one community college to another, decreasing the need to run a highly specialized, costly, and sometimes low-enrolled program at several locations.
In August 2020, Cecil College received approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission to offer a lower division certificate in Health Sciences, which is vital to stacking credentials. The Health Sciences certificate lays the groundwork for students seeking a pathway into healthcare studies that are offered at other community colleges.
“The MEA collaboration was born out of initial discussions between Cecil College, Anne Arundel Community College, and Frostburg State University related to engineering courses and programs. Opportunities to share resources and collaborate to increase enrollment in low enrolled specialty engineering courses, such as electrical or aerospace engineering, started the collaborative conversations, but this quickly expanded to include other disciplines,” said Cecil College Vice-President of Academic Programs, Dr. Christy Dryer.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the dialogue continued, with the six community colleges hammering out the details and expanding to include other disciplines, such as healthcare and business, so far. As the concept developed, it was shared with the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
Through the MEA agreement, students complete their initial coursework at their home institution, such as general education, before transferring to the receiving community college for the specialized discipline coursework. For healthcare programs, the home college would assist in developing agreements for students to complete their clinical requirements at a local healthcare facility.
The added benefit is students can take advantage of articulation agreements, such as the one Cecil College and Anne Arundel Community College have with Frostburg State University related to mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, respectively.
The participating community colleges will serve as the governing body to meet annually to discuss issues, maintain open communication, and facilitate smooth transitions for students. As the MEA expands academic program opportunities, other Maryland community colleges can join to benefit their students as individual institutions can choose which programs to offer.
With the creation of an umbrella agreement, providing the collaboration parameters, each academic program shared under the MEA will be considered a specific articulation agreement between the institutions. These new collaborations will have a signed addendum by participating institutions, creating flexibility related to each program’s curriculum requirements.
The innovation and resource-sharing of this “students first” alliance create the synergy, access, and pathways to rapidly expand Maryland and regional residents’ opportunities to further their education and careers for a better tomorrow.