Recent research continues to reinforce that college completion leads to better career opportunities and higher earning power over the course of one’s working life.
Whether a career-specific certificate or an advanced degree, the benefits of even the lowest level of college completion cannot be understated. Yet, as we promote this as the best way to achieve one’s personal and professional goals, we must also acknowledge that the challenges of college completion frequently cause students to spend more time and money in pursuit of that degree than should be necessary. So how does a student potentially minimize the time and money that they are spending on college completion? By taking advantage of the amazing opportunity that is the Waubonsee Community College Dual Credit Program.
Here at Waubonsee Community College, dual credit refers to an arrangement in which a college-ready high school student takes a college course and is awarded not only the college credit for the course, but also has that credit recognized toward the fulfillment of their high school graduation requirements. Many students in our district can take advantage of this opportunity in a variety of ways, whether directly through a course offered at their high school or by attending a course on one of our campuses.
The School District Partnership Office has partnered with 11 public and private high schools and three career centers to offer dual credit opportunities on their campuses in the 2019-20 school year. I’m proud to share that over the last three academic years, there have been nearly 12,000 student registrations into our dual credit courses and those students have earned more than 33,000 credit hours. For reference, a typical bachelor’s degree program requires about 120 credit hours.
Even more demonstrative of our commitment to serving our community high school students through dual credit is the financial savings our opportunities provide. Through our very generous dual credit fee structure, high schools that offer our courses using their qualified instructors result in those courses being tuition-free. Using our current rate for tuition, the students who took those courses saved a staggering $4.3 million in Waubonsee tuition alone. Considering that tuition for a four-year public or private institution is easily double that of ours, you can hopefully recognize the enormous cost savings that result from students taking advantage of our dual credit opportunities. It is important to note that not all of our dual credit provides that same degree of cost savings because students attending courses on our campus are responsible for paying full tuition and fees. However, the costs of our classes are still well below those of our neighboring four-year schools and move students closer to completion while in high school.
It has been reported that a high percentage of students are taking as long as six years to complete an initial degree frequently because of transfers and changing majors. Every extra semester adds to the cost of college and delays one’s ability to begin earning. Shockingly, college students now owe about $1.5 trillion in student loans, which is more than both auto loans and credit card debt.
By taking courses through the Waubonsee Community College Dual Credit Program, local high school students not only have a great opportunity to earn valuable college credit while still in high school, thereby saving time toward a degree, but they also can minimize the financial burden associated with earning that degree. Not to mention, they will be better prepared for their true college experience having challenged themselves with rigorous coursework.
We call this a Waubonsee Win – Win – Win.
• Bob Cofield is director of school district partnerships at Waubonsee Community College.