By Tiffany R. Bunt
Guest Column, published June 21, 2017 in the Shelby County Reporter
Is college in your child’s future? Looking for ways to save money on the cost of tuition? Want your child to have an advantage in college preparation?
Starting the college search and application process can be a daunting task. In the overwhelming data available to students and parents, you may have overlooked one program that can offer long-term benefits.
Dual enrollment programs offer high-school students the opportunity to take college courses for credit while they are still in high school.
Advantages to dual enrollment
• Cost saving
• Earn degree quicker
• Transition to college easier
• Determine major earlier
• Specialty classes that may not be offered at high school
• Better performance in college
• Looks good on college applications
Earning college credit while still attending high school means students have the ability to obtain a college degree in a shorter amount of time with less overall cost. Ordinarily, these programs permit students to earn up to one year of college coursework, essentially allowing them to complete their freshman year of college.
Because most universities require the same basic courses, known as general education courses, these are typically easily transferrable for credit at other colleges and universities making them an excellent choice for dual enrollment students.
Taking this many courses may be too intense for some teens, but taking just one to two classes offers advantages as well. High school students are able to experience a first taste of college life and the rigor of coursework, making the transition easier.
In addition to providing college preparation, dual enrollment programs give high school students the opportunity to take classes that may not be offered at their school, such as certain foreign languages, sciences, humanities and fine arts.
Dual enrollment programs are not just for the academic high achievers. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “A growing body of research suggests that participation in dual enrollment can lead to improved academic outcomes, especially for students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students.”
The research indicates that dual enrollment participation often leads to better grades in high school, increased college enrollment after high school, more engagement in college and greater likelihood of degree completion.
All of these benefits explain why participating in a dual enrollment program looks so good on college admissions applications. Transcripts that include college coursework stand out amidst the many applications admissions departments receive each year.
Guidelines to participate in dual enrollment programs vary per college. Programs are typically open to high school juniors and seniors, but some colleges permit high school freshmen and sophomores. A GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) or higher is usually required.
While the application process can vary, general requirements include: official high school transcript, program application, ACT or SAT score and a statement of support from a high school counselor or administrator.
UNIVERSITY OF MONTEVALLO
The University of Montevallo’s dual enrollment program, College Ahead, is offered to high school juniors and seniors. The tuition fee for a 3-hour course is $525. This price includes all fees except books and supplemental materials. Students who complete their first year of coursework through the College Ahead dual enrollment program save more than $7,000 in tuition alone.
Gifted Resources Class (GRC) members from Shelby County Schools are given free tuition for one UM course. Books and additional courses are extra.
For more information on College Ahead at the University of Montevallo, visit www.montevallo.edu/college-ahead/ or contact Director of Admissions Audrey Crawford at 205-665-6027.