While their peers are still getting ready for school each morning, many high school students from around the region already are in classes on University of North Georgia campuses, where they are earning both college and high school credit.
Dr. Chaudron Gille, associate vice president for University Affairs & Academic Services at UNG, said dual enrollment programs such as Accel, which covers tuition for qualified students, and Move on When Ready (MOWR) directly address three of the five key strategies created by the University System of Georgia as part of the statewide Complete College Georgia initiative. These strategies are: enhancing partnerships with secondary schools, improving postsecondary access and completion, and improving the time required to earn a degree.
"We work with the school systems to offer the courses at a time and format that fits the needs of their students," Gille said. "Allowing high school students to take college courses that also satisfy their high school graduation requirements gives them a head start on their college degree without having to pay tuition or have it count against their HOPE scholarship. A student who begins taking Accel courses in their junior year could enter college as a sophomore, saving a year of time and tuition. It’s a great opportunity at a time when many families struggle to pay for college."
Dr. Beth Hebert, principal of North Forsyth High School, said her school has increased Accel enrollment from three students in the past year to 16 students this year, 15 of whom are attending UNG.
"We are very excited to partner with UNG and other postsecondary schools in dual enrollment," Hebert said. "This gives our students the advantage of receiving college credit while in high school and it allows them to begin pursuing their career goals early. These courses are challenging our students and allowing for them to focus on their specific area of study, preparing them for when they become a full-time college student."
MOWR allows qualifying high school students to attend college courses exclusively during their junior and senior years of high school. Both dual-enrollment opportunities tie into a key part of UNG's mission, to provide broad access to comprehensive academic and co-curricular programs.
"More than 240 new high school students are enrolling in Accel and MOWR on UNG campuses this fall," said Keith Antonia, executive director of undergraduate admissions. "In addition, there are students who are continuing from this past spring semester. Our aim is to assist students in completing their degrees and moving into careers or graduate programs at an earlier age and with less debt."
During the 2010-11 academic year, 46 percent of two- and four-year degree-granting colleges and universities had high school students taking courses in a dual-enrollment program, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That equates to more than 1.2 million high school students, nearly double the estimated 680,000 in dual-enrollment programs during the 2002-03 academic year.
"UNG is committed to growing dual-enrollment programs on all of our campuses," said Jason Pruitt, acting executive director of UNG's Cumming Campus. "We were not sure what to expect in our numbers this past year as our campus was new, and we ended up with 46 dual-enrollment students from eight different high schools. This fall we have nearly 70 from 13 local high schools."
Lecturer Ann Marie Francis said that having dual-enrollment classes with a mixture of high school students and college students further enriches the experience for the high school students.
"It has been a great experience so far and has contributed to my knowledge as a student by showing me what college classes are like and what will be expected of me," said Avery Edelman, who is a junior in high school. "Until recently I thought AP courses reflected what I would experience in college, but UNG dual-enrollment courses have given me a more true college experience, and the opportunity is contributing to my success by preparing me for future college courses."