Dec 6, 2018
Nakira Bush is on track to be the first Enterprise High School student to graduate with a college associate’s degree at the same time she receives her high school diploma.
“I currently have 19 (college course) hours this semester plus high school (classes) then I have 20 (college course hours) next semester and I’ll be done and graduate,” the Enterprise High School senior told those attending the Enterprise Board of Education meeting held Nov. 27 at the newly renovated Enterprise State Community College Multi-Purpose Room.
It is the dual enrollment program with Enterprise State Community College that has helped make Bush’s accomplishment possible. Dual enrollment is a program that allows eligible high school students to enroll in college courses for college credit concurrently with high school classes prior to high school graduation.
“The potential, in my opinion, is limitless in regard to what we can do for your students, our students,” ESCC Dean of Instruction Danny Long told those attending the EBOE meeting. “Over the last three years, we have had about 50-55 students that actually finished high school with their associate’s degree.”
Colleges in the Alabama Community College System are authorized to establish dual enrollment/dual credit agreements with local boards of education in the colleges’ service area. Students successfully completing college classes as a dual enrollment student receive both high school and college credit.
Courses offered to dual enrollment students by postsecondary institutions are of collegiate quality and rigor, Long said. “We’re required to meet the same qualifications and credentials as any four-year university in the Southeast.”
The quality of education offered at ESCC is the same as any four-year college but there is a difference, Long said. “But in my opinion there is a difference.
“Because if you are teaching at a community college, you are not only passionate about your course content, you are also passionate about your students,” Long said. “You’re going to be in a classroom with, chances are, no more than 25 students. You are going to know those students’ names.
“The quality of education is equal but there’s a little different feel in a community college because just like in high school, we’ve got a vetted interest in seeing students be successful to not only pass the classes but to move on and pursue their dreams,” Long said.
Long said that ESCC has had about 55 students in the college’s service area who have earned an associate’s degree by the time they receive their high school diploma via the dual enrollment program.
“This fall we had about 419 students who were enrolled in dual enrollment throughout our service area,” he said. “Students participating in dual enrollment are more likely to be successful when they go to college, more likely to raise their ACT score.”
Not only does dual enrollment save a student time, it saves money as well, Long said. “Three semesters and the cost of living at a four-year university will cost you about $31,314 a year. It costs ESCC students about $4,800 for the same number of courses. That is a pretty substantial savings to that student and family and we’re proud of that.
“You can’t talk about the community college without talking about cost savings,” Long said. “If a student is having to take out student loans with interest that $31,314 (at a four-year university) turns into $35,323.”
“Probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my life,” is how Enterprise High School junior Zeta Metz called her participation in the dual enrollment program with ESCC. “This program has actually opened my eyes and let me experience a lot of things that I haven’t experienced.
“I’m in five different clubs and two of them are actually here at the college,” Metz said, adding that her mother also attends ESCC. “I love this course, I love this school, this is probably one of the best things that I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to graduate.”
Bush agreed. She began the dual enrollment program in the summer between her sophomore and junior years. “This (dual enrollment program) has really helped me,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to be really prepared for college and I’ll be ready for the workforce, too, even if I decide not to go to college.”
EBOE member Dr. Danny Whitaker said that his daughter benefited from her participating the dual enrollment program. “What you guys are learning will prepare you for your college courses,” he told Metz and Bush. “My daughter will agree with you on that.”
“I’d like to echo everything that’s been said,” EBOE President Bob Doerer said. “My daughter got a little taste of college right here with dual enrollment and I think that truly helped her when she went to Auburn.”
“We’re a family,” said ESCC President Matt Rodgers who was formerly the EHS principal. “We’re excited about the partnership that we’ve had and we’re really excited about moving forward. We love what we’re doing here.”
Long agreed. “The potential for what we can do is limitless. I’m going to call them your students,” he told the EBOE members. “But really they are our students because you are the city school system and we are the community college.”
The next meeting of the EBOE is Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the ECS Central Office on Hutchinson Street at noon. The meeting is open to the public.