TCC, New Heights Partnership Delivers One-of-a-kind Adult Education

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Tarrant County College Board of Trustees today approved an agreement with New Heights that will enable adults ages 18-50 to simultaneously earn a full high school diploma and certification in one of at least 10 career and technical programs.

The only dual enrollment offering of its kind in Texas is open to all Tarrant County residents. A projected 350 students are expected opening day, Sept. 3, with 150 more anticipated by the end of the academic year.

New Heights Adult High School will operate from TCC’s Opportunity Center (Building A), 5901 Fitzhugh Ave., supported by the College’s South Campus in the historic Stop Six neighborhood.

“The life-changing potential of this collaboration is hard to overstate,” TCC Board President Teresa Ayala said. “When we help even one Tarrant County resident achieve the educational dream, we help the individual, that student’s family and our entire community.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that adults without a high school diploma are increasingly stuck in low-income jobs and often struggle to make ends meet. Comparatively, individuals with a diploma and a college certification or degree earn substantially more and enjoy greater employment opportunities.

Chancellor Elva LeBlanc: “Fort Worth’s population is expected to top a million by 2030. This growth calls for unprecedented efforts to meet workforce demands and position our community for a brighter future.”

Senate Bill 2032 paved the way for endeavors like the TCC/New Heights partnership. According to data supporting the bill, more than seven million Texans over 18 lack a high school education. More than 60 percent of all Texans earn less than a living wage, and more than 26 percent of Texas children have parents who lack stable employment.

More than 40 percent of Fort Worth adults fit the description.

Passed by the 88th Legislature in spring 2023, SB 2032 encourages agreements between nonprofits, chartered adult high schools and community colleges to create pathways out of poverty and improve educational outcomes for children whose parents have dropped out of high school.

The Rainwater Charitable Foundation, which focuses on educational opportunity, proposed the TCC/New Heights alliance last August with widespread backing from community and business partners such as Lockheed Martin, Hillwood, United Way of Tarrant County, Child Care Associates, the Fort Worth Independent School District and the Mayor’s Council on Education and Workforce Development.

The Texas Education Agency authorized New Heights Adult High School this past April, setting the stage for its fall opening.

New Heights CEO and Superintendent Traci Berry recognizes how challenging finishing high school as an adult can be. Many want to earn their diploma and attend college, but they’re juggling work and family and just can’t make it back to the classroom.

“This initiative opens the door to a future many adults never thought possible,” she said. “If they can add to their high school diploma a certification in a high-demand field, or even college credit toward an associate degree, that seriously elevates their economic mobility.”

Initial certificates will include welding, office careers and cybersecurity, along with computerized numerical control (CNC) machinist training. Certifications in healthcare professions are planned.

TCC South President Daniel Lufkin said adult learners often are overlooked yet represent a significant opportunity to develop the professional workforce.

“Equipping them with a New Heights diploma and an industry-recognized certificate can swiftly meet current employment needs and drive regional economic development,” he said. “And look at the lives we’ll change.”

The partnership supports TCC’s goal to award 8,000 degrees and certificates annually and complements House Bill 8, which ties state funding for community colleges to student outcomes.

“Community colleges like ours have the responsibility to educate with purpose,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

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Tarrant County College is one of the nation’s largest higher education institutions and boasts the second lowest tuition of Texas’ Top 10 community colleges. A comprehensive two-year college with six campuses in Tarrant County and online classes, TCC offers a range of opportunities for learners of all ages and backgrounds, including Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science degrees; workforce and economic development programs; technical and skilled trades programs; and customized training for area businesses and corporations.