Wednesday Aug 22, 2012
The notion of taking a college-level course that applies to both a high school and a college diploma at a fraction of the regular college tuition fee might sound out of the ordinary to many students.
But Professor Cynthia O’Dell, Indiana University Northwest’s Associate Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, says that dual credit agreements between high schools and universities are a growing trend. Educators at high schools and universities see dual credit as a way of introducing college courses to eligible juniors and seniors and providing affordable access to higher education for those who might perceive college as out of reach.
Until now, IU Northwest had offered such courses only at Crown Point High School. Beginning with the Fall 2012 semester, the university has expanded its dual credit offerings to include Calumet High School, Edison High School, Hobart High School, and Lake Central High School. Next spring, Whiting High School will be added.
Tuition for these basic core requirements is just $25 per credit hour. In comparison, the regular tuition rates at the region’s local universities and community colleges range between $100 and $250 per credit hour.
Kayla Rutherford, who enters her senior year at Crown Point High School this fall, already has college-level speech and anatomy classes under her belt. This year, she is taking pre-calculus, world literature/advanced composition, and physics.
Dual credit courses are offered not just through IU Northwest but also at other regional universities. All fulfill core requirements that are transferable to most universities nationwide.
Rutherford hopes to obtain additional college credits next spring at IU Northwest via the university’s Early College Program. Though not a dual credit arrangement, this is a program that enables qualified, college-bound high school juniors and seniors from any high school to take certain college courses and earn college credits at the IU Northwest campus while still working toward a high school diploma.
It is possible that Rutherford could walk onto a college campus for the first time as a sophomore.
“I feel like I have a bit of a head start on what I want to achieve in college,” she said. “It’s great because it kind of gives you a feel for what college is like so I feel like I will be more prepared for college.”
O’Dell said that the dual credit courses delivered at the high schools carry the same expectations as those taught in university classrooms. The high school and college instructors work collaboratively to ensure that the courses are equivalent. The high school teachers follow the same syllabi, administer the same exams, and assess the students in the same manner as the college instructors.
“If the high school course can’t accommodate the requirements for the college-level course, then the high school and college make a decision to not run that course,” O’Dell said. “We all want to make sure, not only that the students are getting college-level work, but that they are prepared to go on to the next level when they arrive at their chosen college or university.”
Marty Freeman, assistant principal at Lake Central High School in St. John, agreed that the school’s recent dual credit arrangement builds a more rigorous curriculum that ultimately will help students to be more successful in their post-secondary studies.
“I’m very excited about it,” Freeman said. “It’s something that I think is changing the whole face of education. We have a strong curriculum at Lake Central and, by partnering with the universities, it gives our kids an opportunity to earn college credit. And, they are getting a college education at a discounted rate.”
Freeman urged parents and students to research thoroughly the dual credit arrangements at their high schools and to take full advantage of the opportunities – and savings – to get a head start on college.
“Be a good consumer. Do your homework. Know where your child is going and how these classes are going to fit into a four-year collegiate plan,” he said.