According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014–2015 school year was $31,231 at private colleges, $9,139 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,958 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Nine Suffolk Public School (SPS) seniors potentially saved almost twice that by earning their associate’s degree from Paul D. Camp Community College through its dual enrollment agreement with SPS due to the lower credit-hour costs for community college.
Interest in earning an associate’s degree through the dual enrollment program has grown over the past few years, as evidenced by the number of students earning a degree each year – 2012, 1 graduate; 2013, 2 graduates; 2014, 4 graduates; and, 2015, 9 graduates. These graduates can cross off many of the introductory and elective courses from their university requirements, allowing them to concentrate on their specific majors their final two years.
Besides the cost factor, students in the dual enrollment program get used to the rigor of college studies while still at home, where they are more likely to be free from the many distractions that await them when they move away for their post-secondary education. By the time they arrive at the college or university of their choice, they will most likely have developed the good study habits that will help them complete school with a high level of success. Completing two years of study, in advance, also sets those students on a path to start their careers earlier (or go on to graduate school), giving them greater lifetime earnings – and savings – potential.
Students are required to earn 61 college credit hours to be awarded the college’s general studies associate’s degree. At the same time, they must complete the requirements for an advanced studies high school diploma, which is 26 high school credits. While some courses count toward both high school credits and college credits, these dedicated students must also take some college-required courses over the summer, online, or in the evenings. Dual-credit (DC) courses taught at the high schools follow a college curriculum, and include DC Pre-Calculus, DC U.S. History, DC Biology, DC English Composition, DC Government, and DC Psychology. Students pursuing the associate’s degree must also take college-only courses, such as Introduction to Micro-Computers, a Fine Arts course in music or art, Public Speaking, College Survival Skills, and Practical Reasoning.
For dual-credit courses taught at the high school, students pay a reduced tuition cost. For courses taken at the college, students pay full tuition. The result is still saving families the cost of four full years of college. Another advantage is that students’ community college coursework is typically accepted by Virginia universities which can reduce the length of time needed to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“It is wonderful to see these students reach the goals they’ve worked so hard to attain,” PDCCC Dual Enrollment Coordinator Jeanette Pellegrin stated. “It takes extreme time-management skills and dedication to achieve this accomplishment.”
Interim college president Dr. Bill Aiken said, “This program is essential to those students who are focused on completing academic and career goals at a faster pace than the traditional student.”
Hats off to Lakeland’s Reagan Colley, Lexus Isom and Travis Jones and to Nansemond River’s Rachel Hamilton, Richard R. Hyman, III, John T. “Tommy” Lowry, Christine Pinell, Trinity Torres and Jordan West for the foresight and perseverance to accomplish their goal of graduating from community college even before receiving their high school diplomas.