Fast tracking to higher education

The doors for students wanting to fast-track their college education at no cost while still in high school continue to open ever wider with opportunities to take college classes while still enrolled at the secondary level.

Jon Saxton, Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools’ director of curriculum and instruction, reported on the district’s dual enrollment program during Eastland-Fairfield Board of Education’s June 18 meeting.

"We’ve been involved in dual enrollment for a couple of years," said Saxton. "This is a new, innovative way of delivering post-secondary education to high school students and we’ve garnered several new relationships in dual enrollment options."

Dual enrollment offers students the opportunity to earn both high school and college credit while taking courses in high school. Colleges/universities certify the high school teacher an adjunct professor and provide transcripted credit to students who pass or meet course criteria.

Academic credit/hours vary from one course to another and those offered at Eastland and Fairfield campuses are pre-calculus, calculus, freshman English, advanced chemistry, and visual basic. Dual enrollment technical classes offered by Central Ohio Technical College, Hocking College, and Columbus State include: international business, financial services, criminal justice, computer support technology, multimedia, architecture/construction management, programming/software development, interactive media, health and electrical technologies, and marketing/logistics management.

Several of the dual enrollment courses require a certain grade level in previous courses and minimum score requirements on the COMPASS college placement test. Sixty-seven students earned credit this year from Hocking College in 90 courses totaling 439 credit hours. Forty-seven students were enrolled in Shawnee State University courses. Fees were covered by the Educational Service Center of Franklin County and by the school board.

"It (2006-07) was our first year with academic dual enrollment," wrote Saxton in an outline of the program provided to board members. "In 2006-07, there were 17 Eastland students and 30 Fairfield students enrolled in a total of 52 courses. In 2007-08, dual enrollment nearly tripled with the addition of college calculus and the Shawnee State Webpage and visual basics courses.

"The initiation of the dual enrollment program began with the cooperation of Hocking College, the county ESC, and Eastland-Fairfield CTS. As changes continue at the Board of Regents, more colleges appear willing to utilize dual enrollment as a way to increase their enrollment. Dual enrollment is preferred by many because it allows students to remain in their home high schools to earn college credit from teachers they know and with whom they are comfortable."

According to Saxton, the benefits are many for dual enrollment participants, their parents, and for the school district.

Students earn college credit for high school classes at no cost, gain experience taking college level courses in a familiar setting, have transferable course credit, and are better prepared when they transition to a college environment. The school district, in turn, is able to utilize relationships to recruit students and market career and technical programs, develop relationships with colleges and universities, and establish and reinforce more rigorous academic standards.

"Students will have their foot in the door without ever having been on campus," said Saxton.

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