Officials at Washington State Community College (WSCC) and Warren High School have developed an innovative business pathway that encourages more students to earn college credits while they’re still in high school. The new pathway will create a seamless transition for students to matriculate to Washington State and complete a business management technology associate degree in only one year.

The initiative, which will be offered to Warren students in the fall, was developed as a means to provide greater access to college, specifically for students who may not have considered college as an option. Warren High School Principal Ryan Lemley said programming offered at Washington State is a great fit for his students. “I wanted to provide a unique opportunity to our kids. A year 13 pathway is new to our area and balances student interest and academic requirements.”

Ohio’s early college initiative, College Credit Plus (CCP), is designed to allow Ohio 7th through 12th-grade students the opportunity to earn college and high school credits concurrently, at no cost to the student. The state also offers high school students several career technical options through Career Technical Education (CTE) that prepares students for careers as well as the transition to a college degree program.

Lemley and WSCC’s Early College Coordinator Debbie Gurtis developed a CCP / CTE hybrid to create this new business pathway. Gurtis said that connecting CCP with other state career tech programs like CTE, expands opportunities for students and reaches a population that isn’t being served or is underserved.

Lemley added that the program recognizes that some high school students simply are not ready for the rigors of college. “I know that on the surface free college sounds great, but many times 15 or 16-year-old kids are not ready for that amount of responsibility or workload,” explained Lemley. “A year 13 pathway eases them into it by balancing high school classes that waive college requirements and college classes offered on the high school campus.  This allows the student to reap the benefits of college while remaining closely connected to the high school campus.” He added that it also provides an opportunity for career exploration as many students are unsure what career they want to pursue.

Gurtis and Lemley reviewed the current CCP and CTE courses offered at Warren and discovered the potential for students to earn as many as 37 college credits toward a business management degree.  

Gurtis explained that students who take CCP classes at their high schools as dual enrollment students will often graduate high school with a collection of college credits that don’t necessarily form a pathway to a specific degree or field of interest. “With the business pathway, we were very intentional about the sequence of courses offered, ensuring these students will finish high school and have about half of the required credits for a business management associate degree.” She emphasized that through CCP, all Ohio students have the opportunity to earn an associate degree while in high school, however, degree completion requires enrollment in either on-campus or online courses. The new business pathway is designed specifically for those who want to remain on the high school campus and still earn credits that will result in a degree.

“Our focus in creating this new pathway was about removing barriers. The pursuit of a college degree should not hinge on access to transportation or a student’s preference of being on the high school or college campus. Our intent is to make earning a degree accessible for everyone,” she stressed.

With the credits earned, Warren High School students who complete the new business pathway and continue their enrollment at WSCC after their high school graduation will ultimately earn an associate degree in business management technology in just one year, saving both time and money.

The business pathway took more than a year to develop and is the first of its kind between WSCC and any of its CCP partners, however, Gurtis said she believes other CCP partners will quickly see its value and opt to adopt. It will be officially offered to Warren students in the Fall. The two schools are currently working on a second pathway for Industrial Technology.

For 50 years, Washington State Community College has fueled the community’s future through education. We work to make a positive impact by providing opportunities for growth. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or an adult student looking to enrich your life, we cultivate pathways to guide you toward future growth.  Be inspired. Be WSCC. For more information about Washington State Community College, visit or call 740.374.8716.