Getting a Jump in Higher Education
Fall 2010 Issue | By Andrew Taylor
By the time Pocatello High School Senior Courtney Young graduates next spring she will have already earned 15 college credits while still in high school taking classes at her own school with its own teachers. So far she's earned credits in government, history, chemistry and English and has more college credits set in her sights before graduating.
Young rattled off the benefits of Idaho State University's Early College Program.
"It is a better setting because everyone is there to learn."
"The teachers like the classes, too, because the students are more focused."
"The credits are cheaper than going to college for them."
Visit: ISU's Early College Program
These types of efforts pay off for students throughout Southeast Idaho who are earning colleges credits from ISU through this program. High school students who are ambitious enough can be a high school junior or senior and a college freshman at the same time.
"I took the English course and it was so helpful to me for being able to understand how I should write and present papers at the college level and what to expect when given assignments," said Maria Pacioretty, a current ISU junior in zoology who participated in the program in high school. "It also put me ahead when I started attending college because it gave me scheduling space for other required classes that I needed, allowing me to finish my general requirements earlier than other students and get a head start on the requirements for my major."
"The classes aren't too bad," said Jennifer Johnson, from Idaho Falls, a senior at Hillcrest High School this fall who has earned 14 college credits so far and is taking more this semester. "But you have to do your homework and listen to your teacher. It gets you into studying and doing everything you have to do later."
Students in area high schools can take approved high school classes and earn high school and college credit at the same time. Eligibility to enroll requires that students be 16 and have a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
Dual credit classes taught on the high school campus offer college credits at a reduced tuition rate, $65 per credit, compared with more than $230 per credit at the state's three largest public universities, and significantly more than that at private institutions.
The popularity of dual credit/early college classes has grown dramatically in recent years. For example, Idaho State University offered 95 sections of dual credit classes in fall 2005 throughout Southeast Idaho, but offered more than 150 during fall 2009. The number of credit hours it has offered during the same period has grown from the 3,492 offered in fall 2005 to 5,328 credit hours last fall. These Early College credits are transferable to universities throughout the state and to many outside of it.
"We really recommend that area students check out the Early College Program and earn some dual credit hours during their junior and senior year of high school," said Barbara Bishop, Director of ISU's Early College Program. "Students and their parents save money but the greatest advantage is the opportunity for an extra challenge. The program gives students more awareness of what it takes to be successful at college-level work. Taking dual credit can help one to avoid the all-too-common pitfall of students who enter college unaware of the extra dedication, work, and personal responsibility needed to succeed and persist to graduation."
For prep students, the classes may require more effort, but that doesn't necessarily make them harder, according to at least one participant.
"The classes really weren't that much harder, they just made you think harder," Young said. "They get you into the subject and get you thinking about it at a deeper level."
For more information on ISU's Early College program visit http://earlycollege.isu.edu or call (208) 282-6067.