Many families know the challenge of getting children prepared for life after high school. With early college credit programs available, students now have assistance to prepare for college and beyond.
Dual credit classes are one of those programs. These classes are college-level classes that provide both high school and college credit at the same time.
Dr. Jamie Max is the Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning in the West Aurora School District. He completed his doctoral work with one overriding question in mind: do high schools prepare students for college with dual credit? Through his research and professional experience he found that, yes, dual credit does prepare students for college.
“Dual credit programs allow students to get familiar with college material with a safety net. It is a different environment when they are with friends and not with strangers,” said Max.
How students first experience college can play a part in their overall success in college. The transition from high school can be challenging for some students. Other high school students are academically ready for college coursework. Early credit programs give those students the opportunity to get a jump start on their college education and keeps them engaged in challenging coursework. That is why partnerships between colleges and high schools exist; to help students get off to a good start in their post-secondary education, regardless of their circumstances or background.
“We work to build curriculum and programs that build on one another so that our students can seamlessly transition through [high school] graduation. That should not stop there. In order to support our graduates through post-secondary education we need to view the transition similarly,” said Whitney Martino, Assistant Principal at West Aurora High School.
Waubonsee Community College partners with high schools throughout the area. One feature of these partnerships is dual-credit opportunities. Jessica Wilkin teaches mathematics at Rosary High School in Aurora. She is also an adjunct instructor at Waubonsee. Most of the courses she teaches at Rosary are dual credit through Waubonsee.
“As dual credit instructors, we have opportunities throughout the year to meet with other Waubonsee faculty to collaborate on curriculum and make sure we are on the same page. The past three summers, I have taught the same statistics course at Waubonsee that I teach at the high school during the school year,” said Wilkin.
Matt Love is a mathematics instructor at West Aurora High School and is also an adjunct instructor at Waubonsee. He says that the students in each environment are equally energetic and ready to learn.
“The high school class schedule gives me more hours to cover material and give homework in smaller amounts of time. I think the ability to get dual credit motivates students to work hard and take the class very seriously,” said Love.
For students who are able to take dual credit courses, there are many advantages. One is cost in both the short-term and the long-term. Rather than having the same tuition cost as a traditional college course taken at a college, dual credit courses are part of the current cost of high school with a nominal additional fee (often around $8 per credit hour). There are also longer-term savings advantages.
“It can reduce the amount of time it takes them [students] to complete a college degree after they have graduated high school because they have already started earning toward the number of hours required for their degree. It could also allow a student to take fewer credit hours per semester while in college, which may help them if they are trying to work a job while earning their degree,” said Wilkin.
This can be extremely helpful to parents looking at college costs.
“As a father, I have saved thousands of dollars due to my children getting dual credit. My daughters benefited from the dual credit and were prepared for college classes. Dual credit, combined with AP (Advanced Placement) and CLEP (College Level Examination Program), opens up college schedules to dual majors and minors while being completed in four years or less,” said Love.
Another partnership serves students seeking career and technical education (CTE) programs and opportunities. Indian Valley Vocational Center (IVVC) serves 10 school districts across Kendall, DeKalb and LaSalle Counties by providing CTE courses to high school students. In some of these career programs, a college degree is not required. Instead, a certificate is the necessary credential. Many industry certificates IVVC offers have a college credit component to them. These early college credit options in high school give students more options later when it comes to college and other career training opportunities.
“We want students to think about their next step, which may or may not include a college degree. We prepare them for that next step, whatever that may be for them,” said Laura Edwards, Assistant Director at IVVC.
The CTE instructors at IVVC regularly meet with CTE faculty members at Waubonsee throughout each year to ensure the programs are aligned and that the syllabi match.
“Students at Indian Valley can experience a college class. We make sure that the value is multiplied by offering college credit with that experience,” said Edwards.
Partnerships between high schools and colleges give students a head start that helps them throughout the rest of their time in college and even beyond college. Whitney Martino wants parents and students to understand the benefits available to them through dual credit partnerships.
“We know that students who enter post-secondary education with dual credit are more likely to complete the degree than those without. It is also beneficial for students to take college-level courses while in high school to help prepare them for the rigor and expectations of a college while still having the resources of a high school. High school courses meet more often, teachers are available daily for questions, interventions are systematic and students are comfortable and familiar with the high school setting.”
In an era when there are many resources available, high schools and colleges are working together to match students with those resources.
“We’ve found that anyone can be successful with the right support. We are working to help students think about life not just in high school but life in college and even beyond that,” said Max.
Students can take dual credit courses at high schools throughout the area. High school counselors and teachers can advise students about their options and opportunities for earning college credit. For specific questions about earning college credit in high school, parents can have their students talk to their counselors. Also, visit www.waubonsee.edu/dualcredit to learn more about the options and opportunities through Waubonsee.
In photo; left - right: Ms. Rebecca Oliver, Waubonsee Board of Trustees Chair; Dr. Diane Nyhammer, Waubonsee Vice President of Educational Affairs; Laura Edwards, Assistant Director at Indian Valley Vocational Center; Jessica Wilkin, Mathematics Teacher at Rosary High school; Dr. Jamie Max, Director of Secondary Education at West Aurora School District 129; Whitney Martino, Assistant Principal at West Aurora High School; Matt Love, Mathematics Teacher at West Aurora High School; Bob Cofield, Waubonsee Director of School District Partnerships; Dr. Christine Sobek, President of Waubonsee