Dual enrollment valuable to high schoolers

Published 8:19 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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igh school graduates are increasingly choosing to pursue a college degree, but the cost of higher education can quickly become a problem.

At many schools, the cost of tuition has increased tremendously in recent years, making college even more financially difficult for less fortunate families.

Education is the key to a well-paying job and a bright future. Without a college education, a difficult childhood could carry over to adult life and make finding a desirable job nearly impossible.

Fortunately, we have three institutions of higher learning in our city, one of which has been intimately involved in making sure that high school students are well-equipped for the real world. Through Wallace Community College, students in Dallas County are able to take college classes while still enrolled in high school. Students that take college classes while in high school are part of the appropriately named dual enrollment program.

In some cases, schools pay for the cost of classes, which is a tremendous benefit to those who wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to attend college.

One program, through Wallace and Tuskegee University, within the Dallas County School System will allow 22 students to earn his or her associates degree at the same time as they graduate from high school. Its official name is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the Biomedical Program. The students are currently sophomores.

There are other benefits besides the obvious financial ones too. Taking college courses allows students to finish his or her degree more quickly than some who enter college without any credits. College courses require significantly more work and dedication than some high school courses, but the benefits are obvious.

Luckily, Black Belt superintendents, including Dallas County, are trying to expand the program so all students have an opportunity at higher education.

A grant through the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Education would pay for the entire cost of college tuition at Wallace Community College for students in several local county school systems.

In addition to college courses, students would also be able to intern at businesses in the summers following 11th and 12th grade.

Internships are an added benefit to the dual-enrollment program, which many colleges offer.

Who you know can be just as important as what you know. And, interning at a local industry could result in a job following graduation, pending a positive performance and a good attitude.

We would argue that no region of the country is more in need of advanced education than the Black Belt. Our region is historically impoverished.

Many other entities are likely vying for the $4.4 million grant, but if the Black Belt is the recipient of the grant, our high school graduates would be more qualified for well paying jobs.

Even if the Black Belt school systems aren’t successful in their bid for the grant, we hope local superintendents and colleges will continue to look for ways to give more students an opportunity for higher education.