Middle College opens on MCCC campus

There are 38 high school freshmen at MCCC this fall beginning their studies in health care.

Monroe County Middle College is here.  It’s a bridge program for high school students interested in the health care field.

“It’s really exciting to be in the non-normal school setting.  It’s the greatest educational opportunity I’ve had,” a Middle College student from Triumph Charter Academy said.

The Middle College will provide students a five-year program of high school classes, college classes, and experience in the health care field. 

Students will have an opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree within the five years.

Plans for a middle college began in 2007, and its role was uncertain in the beginning. 

This caused employees of MCCC to question how partnering with a middle college could affect the college.

The Monroe County Intermediate School District, Mercy Memorial Hospital and MCCC are partners with the Middle College.

The college’s role is to rent office and classroom space to the Middle College, MCCC President David Nixon said.

A contract has been signed with the Middle College that is similar to the college’s contract with Eastern Michigan University.

“They are just renting space from us.  Their contract says they can rent the space as it becomes available,” Nixon said.

Middle College Dean of Students Sarah Richardville and Principle Robert Krueger each have an office located on the second floor of the L Building at MCCC.

Classrooms weren’t provided to the Middle College until MCCC courses were filled, after student registration.  Empty classrooms were then rented to the Middle College.

Richardville said there are plans to obtain more space if the number of students grows in the future.  This includes renting rooms and offices from the ISD and using potential office space available at Mercy Memorial Hospital.

The Middle College students will not be doing all their learning  on MCCC’s campus.

“They spend a lot of time at the hospital,” Nixon said.

The high school students are on MCCC’s campus on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  On Mondays and Wednesdays the students go to Mercy Memorial Hospital for their classes.

Currently, the Middle College students will not be taking any college classes.

“They are going to just segway into the role of dual-enrollment,” Nixon said.

He said that the Middle College students will dual-enroll like any other high school student.

MCCC Vice President of Instruction Grace Yackee said the college cannot deny any students duel enrollment as long as they meet MCCC’s criteria. The college could gain more dual-enrolling students because of the Middle College.

“MCCC currently has approximately 420 dual-enrolled students,” Nixon said.

When plans for a middle college began, there were few details. Faculty member and Professor of English Dr. William McCloskey was skeptical.

“It was originally meant for students who had high potential but weren’t doing well in school, McCloskey said.  “Students would have low academics and high achievements, which is an interesting statement to me.”

President of the MCCC Faculty Association Mark Bergmooser said that the faculty had several concerns about how this could affect MCCC.

“There was no clear communication on what it was going to be,” he said. “We didn’t know where it would stop.  Does it change what our job is?”

The faculty was concerned that MCCC’s involvement with a middle college could alter the college’s mission.

“The faculty was united on this.  We don’t agree on much, but we did agree on this,” Bergmooser said.

They took action in letting the administration know of their concerns.

Bergmooser said the faculty doesn’t expect to get everything they want, but they want their concerns to be taken into consideration when decisions are made.

“We spoke up and we feel we were listened to,” he said.

Yackee said a Middle College Implementation Team was formed.  Members of this team, besides Yackee, included Terry Telfer, Mark Bergmooser, Lori Bean, Khadija Ahmed, Pat Nedry, Mark Hall, Vinnie Maltese and  Dawn Wetmore.

“In implementing the project, I’ve done my best to keep in mind the faculty concerns,” Yackee said.

“For example, faculty were concerned the middle college would take current space reserved for MCCC classes,” she said.             “I made sure that no rooms were scheduled for the middle college until all MCCC room needs were met. Of course, we are also charging rent for the space.”

She said that another concern was that MCCC counselors would advise high school and dual enrollment students.

“That is not the case now, nor will it be with the Middle College. High school counselors advise in both cases,” Yackee said.

Since plans began, the concept has changed and been molded into the current Middle College.

“They eventually narrowed it to health care,” McCloskey said.  “I think our concerns have been listened to because the emphasis has been placed on dual-enrollment.”

“I don’t think it would have ended that way if a group didn’t voice their concerns.  I think we would’ve had a full-blown school here.”

McCloskey said he still has concerns about the future of the Middle College.

“I don’t have a problem with dual-enrollment, but I would have a problem if it expanded beyond dual-enrollment,” he said. “What’s it going to turn into?”

He said having a middle college could alter MCCC’s mission, which he said has been providing post-secondary education.

“We don’t know if it will be successful or not,” McCloskey said. 

“This will open up a different world.  It will be a cultural change.”

President Nixon said that supporting the Middle College will strengthen MCCC’s mission by supporting education in the community and providing a path to higher education.

“It fits our mission and our core values,” he said.

MCCC students and employees might see a group of Middle College students eating lunch in the cafeteria or walking to their next class, but Middle College students will not attend college classes until they are of age to dual-enroll.