Bitterroot College will be hosting a dual enrollment information session on “How to Get a Jump on College” for high school students and parents on Monday, August 13.
Earning college credits while fulfilling the requirements of high school saves time and money and gives students the opportunity to experience higher education.
Kurt Kohn, counselor at Darby High School, said dual enrollment is a positive opportunity for students.
He said several years ago one Darby student graduated with 27 college credits, saving thousands of dollars.
“Basically saved herself a third of the costs of college,” Kohn said. “Dual credits are a fraction of the cost compared to taking them at the university, about a third of the price.”
Kohn praised the Greater Ravalli Foundation for helping students in “disadvantaged financial situations” and giving every student wanting to take dual credits the opportunity.
More than half of DHS students are taking dual credit classes in their junior and senior years. “We have a high percent of teachers with master’s degrees and that enables us to offer more variety of dual enrollment courses,” Kohn said. “Students who take dual credit do extra work and get a double bang for their buck. It is evolving as the new advanced placement classes and the advantage is that colleges have to accept the dual credits. The college may or may not accept AP course credits but dual credit classes are actual college courses.”
Kohn said high school students earning college credit tend to continue their education.
“They have a greater likely hood of going on to college – they have a stake in it already, a commitment,” he said. “I think it is raising the number of students going to college. It’s also within the guidelines of Governor Bullock’s goal to increase the number of Montana high school graduates attending college to 60 percent.”
Cammie Knapp, previously academic dean and now principal at Corvallis High School, said dual credit (called concurrent enrollment at CHS) prepares students for college.
“It has allowed students to get a head start on college,” Knapp said. “It has saved them a tremendous amount of money and prepares them for the future whatever it may hold. Students are able to complete prerequisites for college courses prior to even stepping foot on a campus.”
Knapp said dual credit allows students who might not be typical AP students to earn college credit and it has expanded to more students at more grade levels.
Jordan Patterson is the dual enrollment and Montana Career Pathways director for the University of Montana. She said dual enrollment allows students to experience college early.
“Students get to put their foot in the water with more support,” Patterson said. “It is a great way to explore and work towards their future goals. They are more likely to continue on and colleges are more likely to retain those students. They are more likely to have higher GPAs and take more credits their first year.”
Patterson said dual credit classes are more challenging as they are taught by high school teachers with a master’s degree and follow the college syllabus.
“We also have career and technical classes, like welding, introduction to computers and carpentry,” she said. “Those faculty don’t need a master’s but three years of experience in the industry or an equivalent.”
With dual credits transferring to any college, Patterson recommends the opportunity to parents for every high school student.
“There are great opportunities for every level of student – they don’t have to be on the honor roll to be in this program” she said. “It’s a great stepping stone to get them college ready and to get on the path they want to be in or if they are not sure they can use it to explore at a very reduced rate.”
Hamilton High School Principal Dan Kimzey said the goal is to grow their college credit classes by 10 percent every year.
“The advantage is most of our college-bound kids, whether technical school or university, are all leaving here with a college diploma started,” Kimzey said. “Students taking advantage of the opportunity should have a semester of college completed when they graduate.”
This year, HHS will have their welding courses reestablished for welding dual credit. Computer assisted design, welding and computer science classes help students bound for technical schools.
Kimzey said one of the most popular dual credit classes is pre-calculus taught by Birch Fett.
“In the college world it takes a semester but here we spread it out over a year,” Kimzey said. “It may be harder and tremendously challenging but spread out to be more manageable. It gives a better time frame to have really challenging academic content spread out.”
Kathleen O’Leary, Director of Academic and Student Affairs for Bitterroot College, is replacing Roch Turner who did the ground work in establishing dual enrollment in Ravalli County.
“He did a spectacular job,” O’Leary said. “I’m taking his place and will introduce more formal advising.”
O’Leary will be in each high school to talk with students, discuss their long range plans and help them select dual credit classes that help them reach their goals.
“Even if they don’t know exactly what their ultimate goal is for a career or a degree plan we can determine what the meta major will be,” she said. “We can determine if they are mostly interested in social sciences, math, human services or other broad general category. We can look at what path they will be going down and I can advise them.”
Victoria Clark, director of Bitterroot College, said that for the 2017-2018 academic year, 254 high school students participated in 398 college courses via Bitterroot College.
Participating students said they appreciate the opportunity.
Peyton Muir graduated from Darby High School with 20 dual enrollment credits. This fall, she is attending Bitterroot College then going into pharmacy. She took dual enrollment government, English, anatomy and physiology, probability and linear math and environmental science.
“I loved the dual credit classes I took,” she said. “They were difficult at times but everything comes together in the end. It is a money saver and you learn so much more in college classes.”
Victor homeschool student Hannah Ekkelboom earned 18 Dual Credits.
“They helped me to progress to a higher level of performance,” Ekkelboom said. “I think as a homeschool student the environment was completely different and it was good for me. I have used what I learned in the speech class in every class I’ve taken since.”
Victor senior Audrey Olson took dual enrollment chemistry and said she appreciates the tougher classes.
“It’s definitely a challenge so you have to be prepared for the workload,” Olson said. “The classes are very fast paced and don’t slow down. I’m glad Victor offers dual credit, it is nice to take harder classes.”
Home–school student Alexis Vai is on track to graduate high school with her associate’s degree in college. She said she enjoys the challenge of college courses.
“It was a really good integration into what expectations they have for you at the college level,” she said. “It was mentally stimulating but not to the point where you despair. I encourage every student to take the challenge.”
Her goal is to become an educator, probably kindergarten through eighth-grade, and also to be qualified to home-school her own children.
Daniel Gabriel took calculus as dual credit and just graduated from HHS. His brother Paul, class of 2014, took dual credit by riding his bike to the former Bitterroot College location north of the Ravalli County Fairgrounds.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Paul Gabriel said. “I was motivated.”
Students attending public, private or homeschool programs are encouraged to attend Bitterroot College’s dual enrollment information session for high school students and parents. The session “How to Get a Jump on College” will last one hour at 5 p.m., on Aug. 13, at the Bitterroot College, 103 S. 9th St., Hamilton. The session is free but registration is required, call 406-375-0100.