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Posted: August 22, 2010 12:00 a.m.

A head start: Dual enrollment gives high schoolers a taste of college

By Brittany Thomas /

Eastside High School

More high school students in Newton County are learning the benefits of Dual Enrollment (DE) programs offered at Georgia Perimeter College.

GPC’s DE numbers are up 76 percent from last year, with 116 students enrolled in the Newton campus, compared to 66 students from last year. There are a total of 813 students attending DE at GPC’s five campuses.

"While the numbers seem small, it demonstrates great interest in the program," said GPC dual enrollment coordinator Jeff Meadors, one of three coordinators at GPC.

College-bound students in Georgia have a choice of three paths available to those who wish to earn college credit before graduating from high school: DE, Advanced Placement (AP), and International Baccalaureate (IB). While DE is a cooperative effort between the high schools and one or more local colleges, AP and IB are programs offered by the high schools and generally taught by high school teachers.

The Move on When Ready Act, or HB 149, became effective in July throughout the state of Georgia. The new law permits high school juniors and seniors to attend post-secondary institutions like GPC as full-time students. They will be able to earn course credits that will be applied toward high school graduation and college. Their tuition will also be guaranteed by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), though they will be responsible for the cost of books.

One of DE’s instrumental draw for students is the Carnegie conversion unit provision in MOWR. According to Jeff Meadors, the Carnegie unit

provision in MOWR. According to Meadors, the Carnegie unit is a measure of face time hours a student and teacher spend in a classroom. Traditionally, each high school semester counts as half of a Carnegie unit; students are required to have four credits of English, four in math and three in science. Before the passage of MOWR, DE courses counted as .6 of a unit. Now each DE course is the equivalent of a full credit.

In other words, each five-month semester would be equivalent to a full year of high school and would count as a dual credit for both high school and college. In the past, students have received their Associate’s degree before their high diploma, making them two years ahead of their peers. All credits earned are 100 percent transferable to any school in the University System of Georgia.

A total of 44 Newton DE students are in the honors program, which gives them access to PTK induction, a lifetime induction into a junior college honor society and provides the opportunity to get an honor seal on their transcripts. It also gives them access to honors scholarships that will transfer to the honors program at a four-year college, and an honor seal on their degree. There are currently 11 Newton County DE students enrolled in the honors program.

"We have extended a little bit out east, as we are looking at some formations of possible hybrid classes for students," Meadors said. "We’ve had a lot of interest in areas like Hancock, Green and Taliaferro counties. Since it’s not feasible for them to leave their high school and come here or to travel back and forth due to scheduling, we’re looking at hybrid classes that may become available in January."

According to a release from GPC, current statewide and system-level policies tend to favor student participation in AP and IB programs over DE, because funds provided by the Georgia Student Finance Commission and GaDOE that would typically go to high schools are transferred to the college.

However, the working relationships between GPC’s Newton campus and Newton County high schools (and the surrounding counties) have helped make the program advantageous in regards to the benefit of students.

"We work together with these high schools," Meadors said. "We don’t work in opposition. We do what is best for the student. If a guidance counselor or teacher says the student might not be the best fit, we don’t push it. But we work to make sure it is the right fit. We don’t want them to risk their HOPE (scholarship) eligibility early on, because these are college courses; DE students take the same classes as regular college students."

Juniors and seniors with an SAT score of 970 (verbal of 480 and math of 440) or an ACT composite of 20 (English of 20 and math of 18) and a minimum 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale are eligible to participate in the program. They must also be on track to complete high school graduation requirements. The MOWR program is only available to students entering junior and senior year and who spent the prior year (two consecutive semesters) in attendance at a Georgia public high school. Students must be certified as Georgia residents according to their high school. In addition, there will be a $20 application fee required.

GPC’s Newton campus will hold a DE meeting Oct. 12 at 7 p.m., which is open to all students, parents, and high school counselors. For more information, contact Meadors at (770) 278-1308 or Administrative Secretary for Dual Enrollment and Honors Programs Julie Locicero at (770) 278-1270; or visit http://www.gpc.edu/dualenrollment/.

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