GUEST EDITORIAL: Saving time and money earning college credit

$1.75 million saved by BHS students thanks to dual enrollment program



What started on paper as a Seniors-to-Sophomores grant initiative in 2007 has actually enabled many Bellefontaine High School students to achieve that status. Through the district’s Dual Enrollment Program, students can transition directly from the ranking of high school senior to college sophomore. Better yet, all this can be achieved without leaving the halls of BHS. In other words, students are able to walk across the graduation platform with a high school diploma in one hand and a college transcript in the other. This equates to saving lots of time and money — two valuable commodities.

Bellefontaine High School continues to be a state leader in the early college credit initiative. Students jumpstart their college careers by choosing from a menu of college class options. These challenging college level classes are taught at BHS with a specially trained BHS instructor. Better yet, the students earn college credit at a fraction of the cost. Over the eight years the program has been in existence, Bellefontaine has partnered with multiple universities including University of Findlay, Urbana University, Clark State Community College, and Wright State University.

Approved high school instructors meet the university requirements to qualify as adjunct professors. In turn, they work with the college professor to assure that the curriculum and assessments are aligned with the college equivalent course. “After eight years of dual enrollment at BHS we still take the alignment of classes with the college curriculum very seriously. We want to provide the college credit to our students but more importantly we want to prepare them for what is ahead. The benefit to our students is incredible both in the credits they have when they enroll and also in their success once they are there” says Kristy Mount dual enrollment instructor in Chemistry and Physics.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, BHS offered 19 dual enrollment college courses. Currently 167 students are earning credit for a total of 336 college courses. At an average of four semester hours per course these students collectively accumulated 1,409 credit hours before stepping on a college campus. At an approximate cost of $300 per semester hour, students and parents have saved over $400,000 this year alone. In the eight years the program has been in existence, over 1,400 courses have been completed by students at a monetary value of over $1,750,000!

Kristy Wisner, a parent of two current BHS students, shares that “College costs can be intimidating. With both boys taking as many dual enrollment courses as possible (about 100 semester hours), we are saving approximately $30,000 for our family alone.” Mrs. Wisner also appreciates the opportunity for students to earn college credit at BHS as opposed to traveling to a college campus. This convenience allows her boys to “challenge their minds while having familiarity with the teacher as well as the accessibility for extra assistance as needed.” In summary, Mrs. Wisner says that BHS students are “privileged to have the opportunity through BHS dual enrollment courses.” 

Along with saving parent money and student time, the Dual Enrollment Program allows perks by beginning college life as a sophomore. This comes in the form of early graduation, the ability to enroll in major courses right away, the enhancement of adding an additional minor field of study, and the chance to study abroad earlier. Of course, dual enrollment eases the transition into college as students have experienced the rigor and challenge of college coursework during high school.

Emma Earick a 2013 graduate shared, “one thing I have found since coming to college is that Bellefontaine offers a lot of dual enrollment options when compared to other high schools. Dual enrollment classes I took at Bellefontaine transferred as credit in biology lecture and lab, chemistry and calculus, which fulfilled my math requirements completely. This allowed me time to find a major that suits me while remaining on track to graduate early.”

Zac Armstrong a 2011 graduate indicated that “by being a dual enrollment student I graduated with a semester of college under my belt. This not only saved me time but also tuition cost of upwards of fifteen thousand dollar.” Another alumni, Heather Devine, shared “between that and my AP credit, I entered OSU as a freshman with over 50 credit hours. I was able to get through my general education courses quickly and move on to classes that I was actually interested in. I could have graduated early, but instead I used my extra time to participate in research.”

The strength of the Dual Enrollment Program is derived from the process of carefully exploring what the students need, what the staff is qualified to provide, and how to partner with a variety of post-secondary educators to create a unique and comprehensive program. Bellefontaine High School continues to grow the program as more instructors are working to earn their Master’s degree in their field of study so that they can become dual enrollment instructors.

The goal of dual enrollment is to prepare our high school graduates to be successful for college and future careers.  Bellefontaine City Schools has worked to create personalized learning pathways, also known as Career Pathways, for our students in order to integrate rigorous academic instruction with curriculum and real-life work experience. These pathways can lead to careers, certificates, and college credit. Pathways that link learning with student interests and career preparation lead to higher graduation rates, increased college enrollment rates, and a higher earning potential.

Bellefontaine City Schools currently has several pathways in place including STEM, Business and Entrepreneurship, and Arts and Communications.

Angie Haver, is a guidance counselor at Bellefontaine High School. She can be reached at haver@bellefontaine.k12.oh.us. For more information visit the Bellefontaine School District website at www.bellefontaine.k12.oh.us

The Bellefontaine Examiner - All Rights Reserved