Eighteen-year-old Joseph Ryan just graduated from high school. However, he's already accumulated 12 hours of college credit -- even though he's never set foot inside a college classroom. That's because he took advantage of his high school's dual-credit partnership with the nearby community college he'll be attending in the fall.
Across the country, more colleges are partnering with high schools to offer dual credit partnerships that, in effect, enroll students in college courses while they are still in high school. These partnerships allow high school juniors and seniors to earn credit for both educational institutions. Schools differ on enrollment times, so it is up to the students and their parents to check with the high school guidance office or the affiliated college to sign up for classes.
Dual-credit teacher Brent Duggins says the courses just make good sense. "The students are taking an actual class and earning real college credits for a very small fee. They are getting a taste of what the expectations will be in other college classes they enroll in down the road. By taking dual-credit courses in high school, they can potentially save hundreds of dollars, if not thousands."
Ryan says his parents paid approximately $200 for classes that would cost at least $1,800 at the local community college. And his high school provided the books. "That's the equivalent of taking one full-time college semester for a couple hundred bucks," he says. "I would say that's a great deal, considering I eventually want to get both a bachelor's and master's degree and that will be expensive."
"When students take my accounting class, they receive three hours of college credit through the dual-credit partnership," says teacher Denee Scheidenhelm. "I personally feel that is the greatest benefit. It gives them a head start when entering college courses. I expect my students to be serious, and typically, they do take this class more seriously. We do work at a slower pace than college, but it allows them to learn and understand the material."
Duggins believes that the classes are more difficult than regular high school classes. "Given that the format is different than a typical high school class -- there are fewer tests, and their weight is greater -- the students are aware of the need for them to perform at their best on the assessments."
Dual-enrollment courses are real college courses for real college credit, and a student's grades will go on their permanent record. "The kids appreciate that they are getting college credit, and they understand the serious nature of enrolling in such a course," Duggins says. "They are informed up front that if they fail or have to withdraw, it could have an impact on their ability to get financial aid down the road."
Duggins says how classes transfer might differ from school to school, but most of the time they will be accepted. However, some colleges will only accept a dual-credit course as an elective. "In our case, the students will have a community college transcript that they can have sent to their college of choice," he says. "It is up to the individual colleges how and if to accept the credit."
Recent studies have shown that students who participate in dual-credit programs are more likely to stay in school and earn college degrees. And those studies make teachers like Scheidenhelm want to persevere. "What we are doing is allowing them to learn, understand the material and prepare for the next level," she says. "It gives them a head start when entering college classes. And that's very important."