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PHCC to graduate 102 high schoolers

Friday, May 10, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Through dual enrollment, 102 area high school students are eligible to graduate with an associate degree from Patrick Henry Community College on Saturday.

That’s the most ever since the first dual-enrollment students graduated from PHCC in 2008 in a pilot program with Martinsville Schools, according to Meghan Eggleston, the college’s accelerated learning coordinator.

The Henry County and Patrick County school divisions began dual-enrollment programs with the college after that. In 2008, 25 dual-enrollment students graduated from PHCC, 28 in 2009, 82 in 2010, 79 in 2011 and 52 in 2012, Eggleston said. This year, 102 students are eligible to graduate from the program.

“We are a leader in this (dual enrollment),” she said. “It’s taken a lot of notice statewide.”

Starting this spring, an estimated 610 dual-enrollment students in the commonwealth will earn Governor’s Medallions at their college commencements, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The students also will be able to wear the medallion as part of their academic regalia at their high school graduation ceremonies weeks later, according to the release.

“These students are not just smart; they are also savvy,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in the release. “These medallions allow us to honor the impressive academic achievements of these students while highlighting a terrific opportunity that other families and students may know little about. Dual enrollment is an important tool in our work to create an additional 100,000 college graduates by 2025.”

Students qualify for the medallion when they earn enough college credits for an associate degree, a general studies college certificate or both, the release stated.

Statewide, the dual-enrollment number is expected to grow in the coming years as more dual-enrollment agreements are created. House Bill 1184, signed by McDonnell in April 2012, requires that each of Virginia’s community colleges and every local school division they serve develop agreements allowing high school students to complete an associate degree or a one-year general education certificate from a community college concurrent with a high school diploma. The associate degree or certificate also may include credits earned through Advanced Placement (AP) as well as dual enrollment if applicable, the release stated.

Eggleston said the associate degrees at PHCC require a minimum of 60 hours of college credit, and a general studies certificate requires 33 credits. “We do not have any (dual enrollment) students graduating with the certificate. It is designed for students who don’t want to take additional hours for the associate’s degree,” she said.

Eggleston said she expects there will be a huge increase in dual enrollment students at PHCC when tuition is free for those students starting this fall. Currently, dual-enrollment students are charged at a discounted rate. Textbooks and transportation also are provided.

Dual-enrollment students earning an associate degree at PHCC usually save an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 over two years compared with moving away to attend a public four-year college, according to Eggleston.

“Another benefit of dual enrollment is that the students learn time-management skills and additional responsibility while still having the support network at home. These students not only have support at home, but at their high school and at the college. This is additional support they won’t have when they move on to a four-year campus. All of us want to see these kids do well and be successful,” she stated.

A lot of dual-enrollment graduates will go on to four-year colleges, and the dual-enrollment program helps prepare them for that and helps them transition to four-year colleges, Eggleston said. Some of those students will be enrolled in college for four years, pursuing a more advanced degree after earning a bachelor’s degree, she said.

Eggleston said she had no specific statistics on academic success of dual-enrollment graduates who go on to four-year colleges. “However, anecdotally students report they are being very successful,” she said.

According to Eggleston and the PHCC website, dual-enrollment students have access to all PHCC resources, including tutoring, use of the college library and electronic resources, college transfer services, counseling, and job-placement and employability services.

The dual-enrollment associate degree program “is a wonderful opportunity that allows students to get acclimated to college rigor early,” said Mary Ann Jennings, whose daughter, Chelsey, is graduating from the program. Chelsey is a student at Martinsville High School.

The dual enrollment program also helped Chelsey to budget her time, her mother said. And, she added, “I figure I saved $30,000 to $35,000.”

“It has provided me with an opportunity to understand what college will be like,” Chelsey said, adding that it also helped her with homework skills. She said she plans to study nursing at Radford University.

“We have more responsibilities and more freedoms ... instead of being treated like a high school student all day,” said Virginia Whitener of Martinsville High School, who is graduating from the dual enrollment associate degree program. She was accepted by early decision at the University of Virginia.

The dual enrollment program “has helped me by having a bigger workload,” she said. “It’s definitely saved us a lot of money,” she added.

Helen Carter said several years ago her daughter Kameron earned about a year’s worth of college credits through the dual-enrollment program. A couple of years ago, her son Blake earned about a year and a half’s worth of college credits through dual enrollment. This year, her daughter Haley, a senior at Bassett High School, will receive an associate degree through the dual enrollment program.

“It has gotten them prepared for the real world of college,” Helen Carter said. Taking college classes made them more mature and helped them with time management, she said.

Students from the Henry County and Martinsville school divisions enrolled in the Accelerated College Education (ACE) program are eligible for the associate degree in general studies, Eggleston said. Students from these two school divisions in the Governor’s School for Math, Science and Technology are eligible for the associate degree in science.

Patrick County Schools refer to ACE as D2 (Dual Degree). D2 students are eligible to obtain an associate degree in science or general studies.

“We currently have 139 students participating in ACE and D2. And there are approximately 70 students enrolled at Governor’s School,” Eggleston said.

The dual enrollment program is for high school juniors and seniors.


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