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NORMAL — When President Allen Goben arrived at Heartland Community College last summer, he was impressed with the on-campus services offered to students. He now wants to work harder at getting them ready before they walk in the door.

Goben thinks the answer will be Heartland’s Guided Path to Success (GPS), a career planning service that will be provided free to all K-12 districts in the Heartland district.

Goben said Heartland is advanced in many areas, but has to catch up in enrollment and pre-enrollment services.

“What we have found is the largest bunch of students who do not make it in college are either gone or on their way to being gone by the third week of classes,” said Goben. “What we didn’t have in place was a really strong, systemized career counseling approach that would happen during pre-enrollment, enrollment and post-enrollment time.”

Heartland GPS will provide test preparation, interest inventories, study skills inventories, and college placement tests.

The initiative will result in more dual-credit classes for high school students, giving them a leg up on college credits before they set foot on campus. More dual-credit offerings appeals to El Paso-Gridley Superintendent Rick Johnston.

“If we can work out this dual-credit program, where our own staff can teach it during the school day, obviously that’s tax dollars spent at its very best,” said Johnston. He envisions some students being able to get a semester or more of college credits completed before high school graduation.

He also likes the idea of more curriculum coordination between local schools and Heartland.

“I’m happy to hear there is an increased effort from Heartland to work with local schools,” said Tim Moore, principal at Bloomington High School. “We have a lot of kids who go to Heartland, and I think it is a great resource for our kids. So hearing that the college wants to be more involved is great.”

Goben said the service will be offered without any commitment to attend Heartland. “Regardless of whether they come to our community college, this creates a strong base for a student to make a decision,” he said.

Some aspects of Heartland GPS will begin this fall, but it will likely be a couple of years before it is fully implemented. Goben said six to eight employees will be added to the outreach/student enrollment department.

He said similar programs at other community colleges have dramatically increased student retention. At Goben’s former post, Kentucky’s Hazard Community and Technical College, he said retention rose from 37 percent to 61.5 percent in four years.

Heartland’s rate in 2010 was 42 percent, similar to state and national averages.

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