Dual-Credit Classes Help High School Students with College

Article excerpt

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sam Roha leaves Greensburg Salem High School just after 9 a.m., heading to Seton Hill University for History 106.

In a lecture hall, Roha, 18, is surrounded by 30 college students. Like them, he is expected to discuss the difference between conventional warfare and counterinsurgency, or the techniques cartographers use to map territory.

"It's a bit challenging," said Roha, a senior at the high school. "The workload is different.'"

Though some students might prefer to take it easy during their final semester of high school, Roha believes the extra work is worth it.

"Since I'm actually in a classroom with college students, I know what college is like," he said.

Roha is one of thousands of Pennsylvania high school students taking college classes through a state-funded dual enrollment program that subsidizes books and tuition. The credits they earn count toward both a high school diploma and a college degree. As college admissions have become more competitive and financial concerns have pressed families, more and more students are taking advantage of this head start on higher education.

The amount the state spent on the program grew from $5 million in 2005-06, the first year, to $10 million this year. The first year, Pennsylvania students took 7,000 dual-enrollment courses; this year, they will have taken more than 46,000.

"We've had increasing demand," said state Department of Education spokesman Michael Race. "We can't keep up with it."

The program's goal, Race said, was to get more students thinking about college, especially students from low-income families who might not have considered higher education. Individual school districts and colleges work out requirements for participation, but in most cases any motivated student who is on track to graduate is eligible. The cost to students ranges from nothing to about $100 and depends on the college and the school district.

But with economic uncertainty rising along with tuition prices, the appeal of dual enrollment goes beyond getting a chance to try college-level work. Students who begin college with a few credits under their belts potentially can save thousands of dollars later.

With this in mind, the Diocese of Greensburg this year took the dual enrollment concept even further than most public schools.

Beginning in their junior year, students at Greensburg Central Catholic High School or Geibel Catholic Middle-High School, in Connellsville, can choose to enroll in any of 12 college courses. The courses are taught at the high schools by teachers who also are adjunct professors, and they earn students credit from Seton Hill, Saint Vincent College or Mount Aloysius College, in Cresson, Pa.

In an arrangement that is separate from the state program, students pay between $105 and $260 per course, far less than they would as college students. If they do well in these courses, they are eligible for scholarships should they choose to attend the colleges. …