Mike Parks’ business law class at Scotia-Glenville High School is filled with sophomores, juniors and seniors. But many of his students will receive college credit for the course.
That’s because the course is offered through the SCCC College in the High School Program, which gives high school students the opportunity to earn college credits by taking approved courses in their own schools. These students earn both high school and college credit, as long as they earn a grade of 74 or higher. The school offers about 15 such courses; students register by filling out a short form.
“It’s just like you’re enrolling at Schenectady County Community College,” said Parks, who coordinates the program for Scotia-Glenville.
Last week, Parks was teaching his students about the New York state court system. He used the case of Christopher Porco, the Delmar man who was convicted in 2006 of killing his father, as a jumping-off point for discussing the appeals process, handing out a newspaper story about a recent state Court of Appeals ruling that upheld Porco’s conviction.
One of Parks’ students, 17-year-old Zachary Bushnell, said he’s taking business law because he wants to be a police officer.
His plan, he said, is to study criminal justice, possibly at SCCC or Bryant & Stratton College. “I’ll be able to use these credits,” he said. “It’s better to get college credits earlier,” said Bushnell, who is a senior. “I don’t want to go too fast through college. I just want to get the information.”
SCCC isn’t the only college in the area that sponsors a college-in-the-high-school program.
Such programs are offered through Hudson Valley Community College, SUNY Adirondack and the University at Albany. Students take the courses for a variety of reasons, which include earning credits that can help reduce the cost of college, challenging themselves and making their college applications look better.
The cost of going to college has risen steadily, with annual increases in tuition typically outpacing inflation. Last week, the College Board released the latest figures on college costs, which indicate that between last year and this year the average cost of tuition and fees at a four-year public college increased tuition 8.3 percent for in-state students. Private schools raised their tuition and fees an average of 4.5 percent.
These increases come at a time when the burden of paying for college is shifting increasingly from states to families.
According to the College Board, the amount that families pay for college after receiving grant aid and taking advantage of tax credits has increased by an average of about 1.4 percent a year for the last five years at public four-year schools.
The SCCC program “saves the students money,” said Sandra Gonzalez, associate for continuing education at the college. “It allows them to come out of high school sometimes with a significant amount of college credit.” The courses also help prepare them for college, by giving them a sense of what college courses are like and what it takes to be successful in those courses.
“I’ve had some kids start college as second-semester freshmen,” he said. “Some of them have been able to graduate in three years.” Taking college courses also looks good on a college application, Parks said. And for many students the courses are challenging, which is good.
The University at Albany’s “University In The High School Program” was launched 28 years ago.
The impetus for the program was a question from a teacher at Shenendehowa High School, wondering why the Capital Region lacked a locally based college-in-the-high-school program, according to Gregory Stevens, assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for academic programs. At that time, area high schools that offered college classes went through Project Advance, a program at Syracuse University.
UAlbany’s high school program started with 27 registrations; today, it has 11,000. “We don’t do any advertising or promotion,” Gregory said. “It’s grown strictly through word of mouth.”
Hudson Valley Community College’s program in high schools was established in 1985 and has grown steadily, now offering 98 courses in Rensselaer, Albany and southern Saratoga counties, said Suzanne Brownrigg, director of school programs at HVCC. In the beginning, eight high schools participated; today 28 schools offer HVCC courses and 2,944 students are enrolled. The courses cover a broad range of subjects, including math, English and social sciences.
Brownrigg said college-in-the-high-school teachers must be approved by HVCC, and evaluated to ensure that they’re meeting the school’s standards. “We’re using the same criteria as any faculty we hire on campus,” she said. The teachers must use HVCC’s course outline and textbook.
One of the program’s goals is to get more high school students to consider HVCC a viable alternative for higher education, Brownrigg said. And the program benefits the high schools that participate. “It’s a perk for students,” she said. “We’ve had students who are able to transfer a semester’s worth of courses to college. It’s something that’s attractive to parents because it saves them money.”
Many high school seniors have completed their graduation requirements and are bored and unmotivated, Brownrigg said. “They have senioritis.” The college courses, she said, can help keep them engaged.
SUNY Adirondack’s college-in-the-high-school program has grown significantly in the past three years, said Brian Durant, the interim vice president for academic and student affairs. Today there are about 500 students in the program, including high school students who are taking courses at the SUNY Adirondack campus. Many of the students go on to study there after they graduate, Durant said. “It’s a mutually beneficial program,” he said. “We have a high capture rate of local high school students.”
For most of the college courses, high schoolers pay a fee. But SCCC offers its courses for free.
“In the past, students had to pay for the courses,” Parks said. “But SCCC got a new president, and his philosophy was that kids should not have to pay for the courses.”
Other college-in-the-high-school courses offered at Scotia-Glenville include accounting, pre-calculus and foreign language classes. Between 150 and 200 students are enrolled.
For a course to qualify for the program, Schenectady County Community College reviews the course outline, textbooks and teacher qualifications; according to Gonzalez, the teacher must apply to teach as an adjunct professor. Most of the courses are restricted to juniors and seniors, but a few are open to sophomores.
The credits students earn are accepted at SCCC and other community colleges, SUNY schools and a number of other post-secondary institutions. “We find that these credits are very transferable,” Gonzalez said.
Prior to 2002, SCCC had offered “a few courses here and there.” But that year the school hired a full-time person to coordinate the program. This fall, the school is offering 117 courses at approximately 20 Capital Region high schools. Gonzalez said that this year saw 3,200 registrations, although some students are taking more than one course.
SCCC conducts surveys of students who took college-in-the-high-school courses; the surveys are administered four years after these students graduate from high school. Gonzalez said the goal is to find out whether earning college credits in high school helps the students down the road.
Among other things, those surveyed report that earning college credits in high school enabled them to take lighter course loads in college, which allowed them to work more and pay for their education. They also report that entering college with credits allowed them to add another major. One student said that she lost a semester in college because she was sick, but was able to graduate on time because of the credits she’d earned in high school.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: