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Building a College-Going Culture in Kansas City

Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Deltoro

Kansas City, Mo., is a gem in the Midwest. However, the challenges around building a college-going culture are mirrored here, as in other large, metropolitan cities. 


Dr. Kimberly Beatty

Chancellor, Metropolitan Community College

In 2016, Dr. Mark Bedell was hired as the superintendent of Kansas City Public Schools, and in 2017, I was hired as the chancellor of Metropolitan Community College. I am pleased that we quickly created a working partnership around building a college-going culture for students in the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) via a pipeline to Metropolitan Community College (MCC). 

This shared vision for college readiness is embedded in the cultures of both institutions, due to the visionary leadership of the elected boards from each organization. Both KCPS and MCC adopted strategic plans with college readiness as an anchor. As a result, the two entities have joined forces to create Early College Academies that serve as pathways to a degree and employment upon graduation from high school.

Paths to success

In this framework, there are two primary paths. The first, the high school equivalency path, is a partnership with the local workforce board, KCPS, and MCC. In this program at the Penn Valley Campus, individuals 18-24 who have dropped out of high school work toward earning their high school equivalency. While working toward this goal, these students are assigned a college adviser to help them navigate to MCC or the college of their choice. The program began in 2018 with four students and has grown to a cohort of 96 students in 2021.

The second path is a transfer program where students graduate with an associate of arts degree when they graduate from high school. Students in this program are recruited as rising sophomores and attend college classes during their junior and senior years. Students must complete and meet all admission requirements, the curriculum is articulated to meet high school and college requirements, and KCPS has an infrastructure on site at the Penn Valley Campus to support the students. The students attend classes with other college students and complete their degree in two years.

MCC’s partnership with KCPS has proven hugely successful. 

“Our kids come first, and we have a responsibility to create a pathway for their success in Kansas City,” Dr. Bedell said. I couldn’t agree more. 

Our community needs the talent of the next generation as an economic driver for the city. Partnerships like the one between MCC and KCPS make it possible. These pathways are only possible when you have long-term service from leadership with a shared vision.

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