Catholic Central offering on-site dual enrollment program

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published September 21, 2023

 Catholic Central teacher Amanda Loffler, who is now an adjunct professor with Northwood University, works with senior Michael Mallie in the dual enrollment program.

Catholic Central teacher Amanda Loffler, who is now an adjunct professor with Northwood University, works with senior Michael Mallie in the dual enrollment program.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


NOVI — Detroit Catholic Central has unveiled a new dual enrollment program this fall with one of its educators facilitating a Northwood University course for high school students.

“Traditionally, dual enrollment for high school students happens in one of two ways: Either they have to have an abbreviated schedule at their high school and then they leave and take classes at a local campus — usually it’s a community college — or they have to take a class online,” said teacher Amanda Loffler. “So the way we have structured this program is that Northwood actually hired me as an adjunct professor. So I’m technically working for the university, which allows me to deliver in-person instruction on campus to our students. It’s a pretty unique situation.”

Northwood University, in Midland, currently offers dual enrollment programs across the state through an asynchronized platform where students take a course online. It also has a cohort with Romeo High School. However, the partnership dual enrollment program with Catholic Central is unique.

“Amanda has not only the credentials, but the passion for teaching these students,” said Kristin Stehouwer, the academic vice president and provost for Northwood University.

The three-credit-hour class, MIS 1500 Business Productivity Software, is required for all majors at Northwood University. However, the credit hours would be transferable to any college or university, should students choose not to attend Northwood.

The course covers a wide range of business-related topics, such as data analysis, office productivity, system processing, visual presentation, spreadsheets and more. Essentially, the course teaches students to use computers and software to make business decisions, or to manage records and business processes.

The students also get acclimated to the Blackboard system, which is used by a majority of colleges and universities to access their courses and get assignments. According to Loffler, just a semester using the Blackboard system will give her students an edge compared to others who are unfamiliar with the program.

“These programs are pretty intricate, so it’s a nice little leg up for them too,” said Loffler. “College is really expensive, and I thought that this would be a really cool way for them to get a little taste of both — to see what they’re going to be exposed to next year, to get a college course under their belt, to get some free credits.”

Loffler said the school decided to do it this way as CC students, unlike students at a public school, are not allowed to leave campus to take a college course. She said that Catholic Central is excited about the course and takes great pride in the partnership with Northwood.

“It’s a great, great way to help test drive a class, knock out a class. It’s just a great platform for them,” said Susie Poli-Smith, the vice president of undergraduate enrollment and financial aid at Northwood University.

“Of course with productivity software, it is great to be able to do that face to face, in a lab, helping the students to apply those skills right in the classroom,” Stehouwer said.

This year, the program is open to 12th grade students at CC who have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Seniors are able to take the course for no additional fee during their “zero hour,” which is one hour prior to the start of the regular school day.

The course is run on the exact same timeline as the university and will finish in December. The difference is that college students at Northwood meet twice a week to take the class, while CC students meet five days a week, which Loffler said is advantageous for her students, as they have extra in-person instruction time.

The students had to apply for admission to Northwood to take the course. This year, nine students took advantage of the opportunity to acquire college credits before graduating high school.

“It’s a really great program teaching us to understand the business world and technology, and that’s very, very helpful,” senior David Kibbey said.

Kibbey said he was attracted to the program because of the opportunity to gain college credits, as he knows it will help to lower his financial expenses for college, and also because he had taken Loffler’s classes previously and really enjoyed them.

“Ms. Loffler does an amazing job teaching the subject and makes it really enjoyable for us, because it’s pretty hard to get a group of, you know, nine 16- through 18-year-olds up and to school before they have to be, right?” Kibbey said. “But personally, I love the class and I think it speaks volumes for her as a teacher and just the subject in general.”

“The goal is, of course, to get kids to matriculate and come to Northwood. Hopefully, they will see the value in the class, they will see the value in the curriculum, enjoy the test drive of a class at Northwood, and then, of course, have had the opportunity to have three credit hours prior to coming to Northwood,” Poli-Smith said. “It’s a great class. It’s a transferable skill set to go anywhere. Students gain the computer skills needed to succeed in their academic careers.”

Stehouwer said that the university asked its advisory councils, which consist of CEOs and top leaders in business, what they were looking for in employees, and the university heard back that basic productivity tool knowledge is sometimes lacking. She said that by taking this course, high school students are offered a good baseline that they can not only use in high school and college, but throughout their careers as well.

“Dual enrollment allows students to jump-start their college or university career while they’re still in high school, and they have the benefit of earning those college credits, but also proving to themselves that they can do college level work,” Stehouwer said. “We hope that it opens their eyes to business careers as they get those foundational skills from this course, and then long term we hope that they’ll consider earning a degree from Northwood University. And if they choose another path, they are well on their way, because they have college credits under their belt.”

Kibbey said that CC has taken a big step by teaching the business functions offered in the course, such as the ability to use Excel, which he said is not taught in most high schools. He said he believes more schools should offer this type of course, and that schools need to put a bigger emphasis on business, finance and technology courses.

“I think that I will have an advantage over fellow students coming into the same (college) program,” he said. “Not saying that literature and science are not important, but I think that schools need to realize that the amount of students that are planning to go down a business path or a medical path or something like that, having a strong foundation in high school to help them steer which direction they would like to go is key. So if this class could be implemented at every high school, I think it should, though I’m not sure how many would take it because of the before-school factor, but I think it would catch on because it offers a big benefit.”

Loffler said that this semester is kind of a test for the program and the school hopes to add more courses and sections in the future, and possibly open it up to juniors. According to Poli-Smith, Northwood is anticipating that the program will be a hit and they have an addendum in place to offer introduction to management information systems if the desire is there.

“So far, it’s been really positive. The kids really like it. It’s very real-world applicable,” said Loffler.