More teens earning college credit in high school


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It’s becoming increasingly important for teenagers to get a head start on college while still in high school due to the nationwide recession and an expanding global marketplace, community-college officials said.

“We’re trying to make sure students in our area are better prepared, not only for college, but also in the workplace,” said Mindy Thornton, the Kirkwood Community College director of high-school operations.

Thornton said officials are seeing more students than ever take courses in Kirkwood’s seven-county area while still enrolled in high school. This spring, Kirkwood has 2,062 students dual enrolled.

“I think it’s a trend because students understand that they’re competing in a global marketplace, so they’re looking for openings in their high-school schedule to allow them to be competitive,” she said.

According to a recently released study from the Iowa Department of Education, more than 38,000 students took part in joint-enrollment courses in 2010 — a 14 percent increase over 2009.

Though the Des Moines Area Community College has had this program for 10 years, officials have also noticed a recent increase.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students to get a feel for more rigorous course work and let them explore course areas which allow them to get a feel for it before they pursue it in college,” said Megan Mudd, an academic adviser at the school.

She said the school has 9,000 high-school students enrolled in joint-credit classes, which is at least a 14 percent increase.

“It’s really popular with parents because of the time and money it saves, and it also is a great partnership with local high schools and the community colleges,” she said.

High-school officials in Iowa City said their students are also aware of the benefits of these classes.

“I think the students understand how expensive college is by getting some credits where they don’t have to pay out of pocket,” said Ben Gast, a West High career academy teacher. “It’s a pretty good deal financially for them.”

Gast’s class in particular teaches students how to deal with technology by teaching them how to use Adobe Photoshop, HTML, and JavaScript. Students receive of college credit for the class.

He said he hopes it will be a great résumé builder and beneficial to students down the road.

“It can put students in a position where they have skills their peers don’t possess,” Gast said.

And his students are as enthusiastic as he is.

“It’s a class I looked forward to going to every day,” said West High senior Katie Connolly.

She said every program she learned taught her something new which allowed her to advance in her other classes.

“I think it definitely puts me at an advantage for projects, and I’m able to take an extra step and create a website or another type of graphic,” she said.

Gast said these classes are a great opportunity for students and they’re fortunate to be able to offer them to students.

“I really do think they benefit them now and will definitely benefit them down the road,” he said.

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