College Courses in High School Help Students Get a Headstart

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2005

How often have parents and their children sacrificed, fretted, worried, planned, and worked extra jobs to save or pay for a college education?

Perhaps this is more a rhetorical question since that kind of activity seems to have become more commonplace in our culture.

Still, that is a good sign.

It indicates that we value education and plans of wise frugality to provide for such education.

And yet, we are faced with financing this crucial foundation in guaranteeing opportunity and success.

Then, too, there seems to be no relief in sight to bring down the cost of higher education; hence, we are still in the quandary of just how we are to pay for a college education.

The individual States have worked long and hard to under write higher education funding, but since a college degree is still seen as a privilege and not a right there are many other budget line items which take precedence, and not always to the immediate liking of the populace.

A good example of this is my home state of Florida, whose annual budget includes a higher percentage for prisons than it does for higher education institutions.

Although this does address a sad fact of social reality, it seems to me that Floridians are paying more for symptoms of social discord than they are for cures to those social ills.

My oldest daughter still lives in Florida and has blessed us with our two oldest grandsons, one of whom will enter his freshman year in high school in just ten days (yes, they start a bit earlier in Florida).

She called me last week and was excited that our grandson will be in a public charter school.

The excitement, however, was over the fact that when he is graduated from high school in four years, he will receive his diploma AND his Associate’s Degree at the same time!

The program between the local high school and the local community college has been in place for eight years and has relieved a great burden from the shoulders of many parents who have taken advantage of the program.

Today the average time youngsters take to complete their baccalaureate degree is five and one-half to six years.

If we multiply that by a conservative average of $20,000 to $25,000 per year, it accrues enough money to buy a home!

And if we want our children to have at least as many opportunities as their peers, a college education becomes a necessity.

Programs like the one my grandson, and eventually his younger brother, will take advantage of are not unique nationally.

And while we do not yet have a program quite as comprehensive as that one here in Alabama, we do have programs between community colleges and local high schools.

There are two programs we have in Alabama which have been mandated by the State Legislature and are governed by Alabama’s Department of Postsecondary Education.

(By the way, say what you will about George Wallace as Governor, it was he who laid the foundation for the comprehensive community college system in Alabama – a legacy of his which is too often forgotten.) Those programs are the “Dual Enrollment” program and the “Accelerated High School Student” program.

I was quite surprised to find that here in Demopolis few parents knew of these programs.

To a person, those with whom I have spoken have responded, “Oh, had I only known about it I could have saved a lot of money and my child would have had a headstart on college!”

Well, good people of Demopolis, both programs are here in Demopolis at Alabama Southern and classes start August 18 at the Demopolis University Center, so there is n time to waste.

As an example of the Dual Enrollment program, a student can enroll for English 101 at Alabama Southern and it will count for both senior English in high school and Freshman English in college – and it is transferable credit!

The same holds true for some other courses in math, psychology, and economics, to mention a few.

The Accelerated program allows students to take a wide variety of courses just as soon as they complete their sophomore year in high school.

This program is a strictly for college credit program and includes such courses as history, sociology, art appreciation, music appreciation, computer applications, and ethics.

Both programs have requirements for students to enter including having a “B” average and an endorsement from the high school principal and approval of the superintendent.

We have more information at Alabama Southern (287-0174).

The costs at Alabama Southern will save students and their parents a great deal of money – and these students will have the added advantage of going off to a four-year college with a good number of credits already having been completed.

While we are not yet at the same point my grandson is, I know we will be someday very soon.

Last week, Dr. Isaac Espy, our new Demopolis High School Principal, brought a contingent of his staff to our Alabama Southern Campus at the Demopolis University Center and discussed the efficacy of these two programs.

Who knows?

Perhaps next year we can promote the fact that when students at DHS graduate, they will receive both their High School Diploma AND their Associate’s Degree from Alabama Southern.

Such is the progress, as well as the necessity, of education.

Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at aogden@ascc.edu.