High school students to earn degrees

By Steve Chapman

Students in the class of 2016 at some area high schools will not have to wait until after graduation to earn a college degree. Beginning this summer, high school students who have completed their sophomore year in the districts of Neosho, Carthage, Carl Junction and Aurora may earn their associate degrees at Crowder College while pursuing their high school diplomas, thanks to a partnership between Crowder and the districts.

“Students participating in the program will save money on tuition. Total tuition for dual enrollment is $3,660, which is about $6,500 less than what they would pay if they came to Crowder after high school,” said Melissa Smith, dual credit coordinator for Crowder. Students in the program will also save money in books and other expenses because Crowder will loan them textbooks and not charge them any fees, she added.
Additionally, students will save time.

“These students who are going on to get their bachelor’s degree would potentially only have two more years…before they could be ready for the workforce,” Smith said.

The program will demand a greater course load than what a regular high school student carries. Students in dual enrollment will have to take dual-credit classes and additional on-line or night classes to reach the 61 credit hours required for an associates degree, according to Smith.

While this program is new in the Neosho, Carl Junction, Aurora and Carthage districts, the Liberal district already has it in place, and a student, Whitlea Ulrich, has already received her associates degree with her high school diploma.

In a telephone interview, Ulrich stated the dual enrollment program had been demanding, but she benefitted from it.

“It took a lot of my time, but I was still very involved in school, and I don’t feel I lost anything,” said Ulrich.

In addition to being in dual enrollment, Ulrich also played softball, and was actually president of her school’s chapter of Future Business Leaders of America and student council. She was also active in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society, prom committee and yearbook.

Her involvement in so many organizations, along with her studies, taught Ulrich valuable time management skills.

“I learned how to manage my time better because of it,” Ulrich said. “I had a planner; I was writing down everything I did.”

Ulrich did have to sacrifice social time while participating in the program. Though she did go to her prom, school work kept her from participating in the after-dance activities.

“Instead of going out afterwards, I went home and did homework that was due at midnight,” said Ulrich.

Though it was a lot of hard work, Ulrich had high praise for dual enrollment.

“This is a great program,” Ulrich said. “It saved me a lot of time and money. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it if that’s what you know you want.”