P O W E L L, W y o. - Big Horn Basin high school students now have an easier option for getting a head start on college - they can enroll in college classes that meet at their high school and exclusively in their school schedule.
Northwest College recently announced a new concurrent enrollment program which offers college credit classes onsite utilizing high school teachers and class schedules. These classes carry both high school and college credit. High school students across Big Horn, Park and Washakie counties can now walk into a familiar classroom with a familiar teacher during their regular school day to start their college education.
"The classes we offer will be at the request of the individual schools," said Ronda Peer, Northwest's dean of extended campus and workforce training. "The number of classes we'll offer and the speed we can get them up and going will be dependent on the demand at each school and the availability of qualified faculty."
Participating students, in addition to getting a head start on college, can save money in two ways. First, the NWC tuition they pay for concurrent enrollment classes is just half the normal rate. Plus, by getting general education and other classes out of the way early, they'll have fewer classes to take when they're in college full time, which conceivably means they could graduate earlier, thereby paying less tuition.
The concurrent enrollment program will augment Northwest's dual enrollment classes, which have been available to area high schoolers for several years. These are regular college classes that meet on the college's schedule. Students can attend them via interactive television at their high school, online, or in person at the Powell campus or Cody and Worland centers.
Peer said the challenge in developing concurrent enrollment classes has been to blend NWC's philosophical expectations of the college experience with the effective use of the high school student's day.
"We want every aspect of our concurrent classes to reflect the same academic and personal maturity standards that NWC students are expected to meet on campus," Peer said. "When high school students take college classes as part of their high school day, it's difficult for them to understand it's a college classroom and they must change their behaviors to match a different set of expectations as well as perform academically at a college level. We want them to leave these classes with an accurate sense of what it takes to successfully complete a college course."
Peer said the high school faculty have the toughest role to play in meeting this challenge. They'll be required to step out of their secondary education role for an hour or two, perhaps in the middle of the day, to become college faculty and then return to their former role for the very next class. To help make this easier, NWC has developed a Postsecondary Instructor Class to help qualified high school faculty make this transition.
"One of the biggest differences," she said, "is the responsibility the students must bear for themselves. In a college setting, the faculty's primary goal is to facilitate learning. Students are expected to exercise more self discovery and to take charge of their own learning."
Another difference is content. According to Peer, the teachers and the materials used in concurrent enrollment classes fall under the same set of academic freedoms enjoyed by college teachers on campus settings. "This is something parents need to be aware of as they consider enrolling their children in these classes," she added. "Controversial content and content of an adult nature might be part of a college class."
The NWC concurrent enrollment program was developed by a taskforce made up of an equal number of high school and college personnel. The classes will be offered through a three-year pilot program during which all institutions involved will monitor student success and make ongoing changes as needed to the program. At the end of the three-year period, the taskforce will evaluate the program's overall performance and make decisions about continuing it.
The cost to students of enrolling in concurrent classes depends on the individual high schools. NWC gives the high school a one-half tuition waiver on all concurrent classes. The remaining tuition and all fees are billed to the high school, which decides how much should be paid by the student. Peer said she's hoping NWC can create BOCES agreements (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) with each school district that would set aside a pool of money to help students with tuition costs.
For more information about Northwest College's concurrent enrollment classes, parents and students are advised to call their high school principal, or e-mail Ronda Peer or call (307) 754-6123. She can be reached toll-free at (800) 560-4692, ext. 6123.