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Record 20 UNG dual-enrolled students earned degrees in spring 2020

May 21, 2020

Dessie Durham and Alex Zamora will be among the thousands of students to receive their high school diplomas in late May, but they earned a more exclusive distinction earlier this month.

Durham and Zamora were two of the 20 University of North Georgia (UNG) dual-enrolled students to earn their associate degrees before their high school diplomas.

"This year UNG had a new record of dual-enrollment students graduating," said Imani Cabell, dual-enrollment coordinator at UNG. "And we have increased it year by year."

In the 2017-18 academic year, 12 dual-enrolled students earned their associate degrees. The number increased to 14 in 2018-19. This year, the number jumped to 20, marking a 42% increase.

Cabell said the numbers may climb or remain the same based on the interest and motivation from current high school students, who are from public and private schools as well as home school.

"We have a different level of motivation from students. They are avid learners," she said. "And they are using the program toward their long-term education goals instead of trying to get their feet wet."

Durham is one such student. The 18-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia, wanted to take courses not currently offered at her high school. She also learned Arabic at UNG's Summer Language Institute in 2019.

"I fell in love with the language," Durham said.

The course gave Durham the ability to apply for the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program, which funds high school students a yearlong study abroad learning a critical language. She won a spot in the program in April and plans to study Arabic in Jordan.

"I am looking forward to it," she said.

Zamora looked forward to becoming a full-time dual-enrolled student two years ago, despite different advice from his older brother.

"My brother said dual-enrollment was not as useful as AP classes," said the 18-year-old from Buford, Georgia. "I did my own research, and it sounded like a great idea. I also wanted to skip ahead to college."

The decision paid off, financially and educationally. Because the dual-enrollment program covered his costs for tuition, books and mandatory fees, Zamora will only have to pay for two years of college instead of the traditional four to five years. He also hopes to receive the Zell Miller scholarship.

"My brother is in college, too," he said. "So this will save my family money."

Cabell said while a majority of dual-enrolled students earn their bachelor's degrees at different institutions, UNG retains a higher number than other schools. Most higher education institutions in Georgia retain between 19% and 22% of their dual-enrolled students, but UNG has one of the largest rates in the state at nearly 37%.

"We do that by ensuring our students feel connected to campus," Cabell said. "We treat them like regular freshmen. They can still join clubs and organizations and they can participate in intramural sports. They can even create their own organizations."

Dual-enrollment students also have access to academic advisers on all five campuses. Cabell said each staff member works to connect on a personal level with each student.

For more information, visit the Dual and Joint Enrollment Admissions and Requirements webpage.

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