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2012 October 1 - 12:00 am

TRACKING TRENDS : Ind. Students Reap Benefits of Early College Programs

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) — A student attending Vincennes University will pay more than $9,000 for classes this year, and that’s before room, board and other expenses are factored in.

But to save money, a growing number of college-bound Center Grove High School students are taking those same courses in high school.

Center Grove has offered an early-college program to students for the past four years and has partnered with Vincennes for the past three. Students in the program can earn up to 60 college credits, meaning they can graduate from high school with an associate degree. The total cost to the students is $3,000, Center Grove early-college program coordinator Josh Baker said.

Center Grove, Franklin and Whiteland high schools all are seeing increases in the number of students in early-college and dual-enrollment courses as families try to save money and teens look to gain academic experience before getting to college.

This year, about 400 students are enrolled in Center Grove’s early-college program, up from 200 four years ago.

Last semester, nearly 500 students at Franklin — 29 percent of the overall enrollment — were either in the early-college program or taking dual-enrollment courses. That’s up 13 percent from three years ago, Franklin assistant principal Leah Wooldridge said.

At Whiteland, about 170 students, or 10 percent of those enrolled, are taking dual-enrollment courses, up from just 12 students when the courses were first offered three years ago, guidance counselor Dave McMillan said.

Center Grove junior Vanessa Wahl enrolled in the early-college program to save money and to get an idea of what to expect once she got to college.

“That way you don’t go there blind. You have an idea of what’s expected of you and how hard you have to work to get a good grade,” she told the Daily Journal.

Wahl wants to attend Indiana University and eventually teach dance as a college instructor. She’ll have to cover all of her college costs, and beginning at IU as a junior will mean a huge cost savings, she said.

Center Grove and Franklin both started offering early-college programs four years ago. Center Grove’s program is open to all students who are passing all of their courses. Franklin’s program with Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University is open exclusively to students who have good grades and who would be among the first in their family to go to college, Baker and Wooldridge said.

Classrooms are run by either professors from the colleges or school teachers who have been certified through the universities, Baker and Wooldridge said.

Local high schools also offer Advanced Placement courses to students through the national College Board organization. The content of those classes is similar to a college-level course, but they’re offered primarily to juniors and seniors. Students must pass a year-end test in order to earn the college credit.

Students taking early-college or dual-enrollment courses need to earn a C for the college credits to count.

Wahl said she prefers earning credit through the early-college program instead of the Advanced Placement courses. The AP tests allow her just one day and one test to prove she deserves college credit, while the early-college program lets her earn the credit over a semester.

“It’s a lot easier for me and a lot less stressful,” she said.

Whiteland doesn’t have an early-college program, meaning students can’t earn an associate degree by the time they graduate. But the school has dual-enrollment partnerships with Ivy Tech, Vincennes, the University of Southern Indiana and Indiana State University.

The courses have varying fees and are open to all students. A student may not be interested in or qualify for an Advanced Placement course, but the dual-enrollment courses give them the chance to learn what will be expected in college and to start earning credits, McMillan said.

“One of our goals is we want our students, when they graduate, to have a certain number of college credits already,” he said.

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