Concurrent enrollment saves time and money
December 2, 2011
Students who meet the requirements to enroll in a high school concurrent enrollment program are saving money and preparing for the rigors of college. According to South Summit High School Concurrent Enrollment representative Billie Sue McNeil, the school partnered with Utah Valley University and Utah State University and has offered the program for more than 12 years.
McNeil said more than 65 juniors and seniors enroll in the program each semester. Juniors with a grade point average of at least a 3.5 and seniors with a GPA of a 3.0 or higher can apply. There have also been exceptions for excelling sophomores, according to McNeil, who said these students need at least a 3.7 GPA.
There are two kinds of teaching approaches under the concurrent enrollment umbrella, McNeil said, adding that the first is called distance education, which uses streaming technology to connect college classrooms to high school students through big screen televisions.
"It’s a live class being taught at that time," McNeil said. "The cameras are there in the classroom and they are also here in our classrooms. Everyone can see everyone, and we have microphones so we can talk back and forth. The students will sometimes do projects with other students from other campuses."
She said the second method requires teachers, who have been approved by the university, to instruct the high school students in the classroom.
"In smaller school districts such as ours, we don’t have an abundance of AP classes, so this offers the advanced classes in place of the AP classes," McNeil said.
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McNeil said the program kills two birds with one stone by allowing students to get a jump on their college education. Each year, between five to seven students earn their associates degrees upon high school graduation. A student who earns the degree during high school has saved about $10,000 in tuition, according to McNeil, who said she recently calculated the savings.
"The nice thing about earning your associates degree is that everything is transferred," she said. "An associates takes about 60 college credits and once they graduate then they are eligible for 60 more credits, so they enter college as a junior."
South Summit senior Savannah Wheeler has been taking concurrent enrollment classes since she was a sophomore. She is enrolled in three courses this semester and said she is about four credits away from earning an associates degree.
"It’s definitely a challenge and you want to set your priorities straight," Wheeler said. "It’s an awesome program and it prepares you for college. An associates degree from high school is awesome."
Wheeler said she will choose between the University of Oregon and the University of Tennessee next year. She hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree in two years and then continue her education to become a Physician’s Assistant.
The most challenging thing is just keeping up, especially because I was more involved in the high school so it gets overwhelming at times," she said. "The most rewarding part is knowing that I’m almost done and knowing that I did it."
North Summit High School Concurrent Enrollment Director Lloyd Marchant said, the concurrent enrollment numbers at the high school are down this semester. The school has about 50 students enrolled in concurrent classes this quarter.
Between six and seven North Summit High School students graduate with an associates degree each year, according to Marchant, who said the program often enables seniors to benefit from a rigorous class schedule there last year of high school.
There are a lot of people who are against concurrent enrollment and there are people in the legislature who would like to do away with it, but it’s a good program for students," he said. "A lot of students have fulfilled their requirements by then and there has been some concern with senior-year rigor."
According to Utah Valley University Concurrent Enrollment Academic Advisor Annette Pukahi, most students take between two and three concurrent enrollment classes during their last two years of high school.
"There are some students who want to do the full-blown associates degree," she said. "Whether or not that is a good or bad thing depends on what the student wants to do."
Pukahi said it’s always good for students to be advised on classes before they enroll in them and that the program helps students who may be sitting on the fence about going to college.
"It transitions the students from high school to college," she said. "The problem is that these kids are young still and they don’t know what they want to do, so for most students it’s better to take just a few classes to get a feel for it."
The university receives funding from the state for the program, according to Pukahi, who said they get paid for each student per district.
"The district will get some of that money as well to help pay for books for the students," she said. "Districts kind of rely on that money because they can be creative with what they use it for. It ends up being a win-win for everybody."