Monday, October 22, 2007

Dual Credit Courses Jumpstart a College Education

Former Rio Salado College dual enrollment students Cassi Ware and Jennifer Impiccini skipped their freshman year at Arizona State University.

By the time they graduated from high school they had accumulated enough credits to begin ASU as sophomores. Both students are enthusiastic about the jumpstart they got.
“It was really good to get two years done in one,” said Ware who will complete college in three years.

Dual enrollment courses allowed Impiccini to complete prerequisites needed for her program before she finished high school. She liked the smaller class size.
“In dual enrollment classes it is a lot easier to talk to the teacher and get the help you need,” said Impiccini.

Like thousands of other able and ambitious Valley high school students Ware and Impiccini know dual enrollment classes, classes in which students receive high school and college credit simultaneously, are a bargain.
The classes save students time and money. Students also benefit from rigorous classes taught by college certified instructors.
Rio Salado College was the first college to offer dual enrollment courses and has the largest enrollment in Maricopa County with more than 52 high schools and 7,000 students participating.

Not only do students get a jumpstart on their college education, they are well prepared to succeed once they reach the university.

“We know our student’s academic performance is as good or better as those who take all their classes at the university,” said Vernon Smith, dean of instruction.
Smith calls the program beneficial for all those involved.

“This is a win, win, win, win,” said Smith. “Students meaning parents save on college tuition and textbooks. They also reduce the time spent completing college and eliminate duplication of coursework.”

Taxpayers win since it’s much cheaper to educate students at a community college rather than a university and students are ready to contribute to the economy much quicker.
Rio Salado started the dual enrollment program in 1987 with Xavier College Preparatory High School, and with a few classes at Seton Catholic High School in 1992. By 1993 the program really took off.

In the Tempe Union School District all five of the high schools participate in the program. “I have been taking as many college accredited courses as possible to cut back on expenses once I get there, and this has provided another great opportunity for that. I think the dual enrollment program can benefit so many people, for it has already helped immensely in furthering my education,” said Ashley Martinez, a dual enrollment student at Marcos de Niza High School.

Tempe High teacher Brien Bensel teaches English 101 and 102. Bensel says the additional emphasis in writing helps students be a little more prepared for college.
Elizabeth Stone has been teaching dual enrollment courses for 12 years. She says students in dual enrollment classes benefit from an enhanced curriculum and their academic performance is higher.

“Students leaving my class are going into college prepared for the more rigorous college classes, are more accountable for completing their homework and have a better understanding of the self-preparation needed for exams in college,” Stone said.
Rio Salado is also the only community college in Maricopa County that is NACEP (National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnership) certified. NACEP certified means credits for courses transfer not only in state universities but out of state as well because colleges and universities are more likely to recognize an accredited institution.
“This is a huge advantage for students. If you are going to take the class make sure the class has the highest accreditation. This is really big deal,” said Smith.

High schools in Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Scottsdale, Queen Creek, Glendale, Deer Valley, Fountain Hills, Higley, Paradise Valley, Phoenix and Sunnyslope also participate in Rio Salado’s dual enrollment program. Many parents and students are unaware of the many classes offered in the dual enrollment program.

Typically junior and seniors in high school are eligible to enroll in dual enrollments courses. For a list of classes and high school participating in dual enrollment classes visit