(a) The Legislature makes the following findings:
(1) Evidence from national studies shows clearly that the need to increase the number of Americans who hold post-secondary credentials has reached a critical point. According to Complete College America, the United States has fallen from its long-held position as first among the nations and now ranks tenth in the percentage of young adults with a college degree. Even more discouraging is the statistic which shows that, for the first time in national history, the current generation of college-age Americans will be less educated than their parents' generation.
(2) In West Virginia, the large numbers of high school students who are uninterested and/or unprepared for college can be attributed to three primary factors:
(A) Lack of alignment in courses between public education and public colleges and universities;
(B) Lack of clear career pathways presented to students early enough to help them choose and follow an articulated path from high school through postsecondary education; and
(C) Lack of knowledge among students and parents about financial aid opportunities that can help them and their families defray the cost of attending college.
(3) Sixty-three percent of jobs now available or to become available in the near future require postsecondary education. This statistic is particularly relevant for community and technical college students, but even for students who choose to pursue a four-year degree, it is critical that they be clearly focused on career goals in order to succeed.
(4) Currently, a severe gap exists between the demands for technically skilled workers in West Virginia and the aspirations and programmatic focus of many of our students. Nearly thirty percent of the state's high school students have failed to enroll in either the pre-baccalaureate professional pathway or the career and technical education skilled pathway. Most of these individuals could be better served in a focused program of study that begins in the public schools and makes a seamless transition to the postsecondary level in the state community and technical colleges.
(5) The best way to promote this focus on career goals among our students is through implementation of career pathways. This is an integrated collection of programs and services intended to develop students' core academic, technical and employability skills; provide them with continuous education and training; and place them in high-demand, high-opportunity jobs.
(6) In West Virginia, preparing students to achieve higher levels of education is a responsibility shared among the state agencies responsible for providing education and workforce development training. Since increasing the education level of state citizens enhances West Virginia's economic future and the general well-being of its citizens, providing additional opportunities to earn a college credential is the responsibility of all public secondary education and state institutions of higher education.
(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to encompass the entire public higher education system to remove those obstacles that block these pathways to college completion and to direct agencies and institutions to collaborate and cooperate to deliver needed services. Therefore, the object of this article is two-fold:
(1) To set forth a viable collaborative model that public community and technical colleges and public school career centers shall adopt to increase the number of West Virginians with a college credential; and
(a) The Collaborative Degree Completion Program is hereby established as a collaborative partnership which includes the following:
(1) The public school career and technical centers which includes state technology centers, technical centers, career centers and career/technical centers; and
(2) The state community and technical colleges.
(b) The program shall meet the following objectives:
(1) Increasing the number of West Virginians who hold a college credential and providing opportunities for a larger number of adults to earn that credential;
(2) Increasing the education and technical skill levels of the state's work force; and
(3) Delivering post-secondary technical education in the most effective and cost efficient manner by maximizing the available resources of career centers and community and technical colleges.
(c) The program shall be adopted by each community and technical college/career and technical education consortia planning district. Each district shall assess the needs of its employers, institutions and centers and may adapt the basic model to fit the needs of the area to be served; however, each model shall include the following basic strategies to meet the objectives established in this article:
(1) Identify postsecondary adult career-technical education programs offered by the public school career centers that are to be evaluated for delivery as a Certificate of Applied Science or an Associate of Applied Science Degree;
(2) Ensure that all collaborative programs meet the conditions of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges which is the accrediting body for state community and technical colleges;
(3) Ensure that all collaborative programs meet the academic standards of the participating college; and
Members of each community and technical college/career and technical education consortia planning district shall enter into an agreement that delineates the division of responsibilities among the facilitating community and technical college pursuant to section four, article three-c of this chapter and the career and technical centers, including activities for which these entities are jointly responsible.
(a) The following activities are the responsibility of the facilitating community and technical college in each consortia planning district:
(1) Approve all curricula course and/or programs through the college's approval process;
(2) Maintain authority over the curriculum as required by the college's accrediting agency;
(3) Deliver all program general education courses;
(4) Award the appropriate degree;
(5) Employ all general education faculty and approve the employment of all technical program faculty;
(6) Enroll students through the college's admission and registration process and administer student financial aid, including coordinating and administering veterans' education benefits;
(7) Charge and collect the college's tuition and fees; and
(8) Pay the career and technical center for technical faculty time.
(b) The following activities are the responsibility of each career and technical center within the consortium planning district:
(1) Deliver the majority of the technical content courses;
(2) Maintain equipment and laboratories and provide adequate instructional space if the program is delivered onsite at the career and technical center; and
(3) Employ technical content faculty, if needed. If participants choose, these faculty members may be provided by the facilitating community and technical college.
(c) The following activities are the joint responsibility of the facilitating community and technical college and each career and technical center in the consortium planning district:
(1) Maintain programmatic accreditation, if required;
(2) Maintain student transcripts at both the community and technical college and the career and technical center. The college transcript is the official transcript of record;
(3) Determine admission standards and student acceptance into the programs;
(4) Market the program and share the cost of marketing as determined in the consortia agreement;
(5) Develop and implement a program of cross counseling in which counselors from secondary and postsecondary career and technical centers and state community and technical colleges meet with students and their parents, beginning in the eighth grade to answer their education and career-related questions, to serve as a source of support through high school graduation and to provide specific, targeted information on career pathways and financial aid opportunities; and
(6) Determine the feasibility of collaboratively developing and implementing postsecondary-level programs to extend high school programs that currently are terminal.