Monday, June 15, 2009

A Head Start on College

High school students earn college credit

Throughout the Valley high school seniors are celebrating graduation and preparing for college. Among these teens are students who already completed their first year of college while they were in high school. Now, they are selecting courses for their sophomore year of college. How did they accomplish this? The students enrolled in Rio Salado College’s dual enrollment program.

One student who has benefited from the program is Wayne Unger, a recent graduate of Mountain Pointe High School in the Tempe Union High school District. Unger started taking dual enrollment classes during his sophomore year and completed high school with 40 college credits.

“The dual enrollment program was a great opportunity for me,” said Unger. “This will allow me to pick a flexible schedule next year. With these credits, I’m seriously considering a double major, too.”

While students like Unger are appreciating the flexibility and likelihood of graduating from college early, they are not the only people who see the benefits of the dual enrollment program. Parents are enjoying the program, too.

“The dual enrollment program is a tremendous asset for our daughter,” said Kathrine Komarnisky, whose daughter, Sydney, is a starting her junior year at Hamilton High School in the Chandler High School District. “There is the obvious financial savings, but my husband and I thought it would be a great experience for her. It is teaching her responsibility and preparing her for college life.”

According to Kathrine, Sydney earned college credit for her Spanish classes and is looking forward to earning more credit before she graduates in 2011. While Kathrine is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, she sees even more benefits to the program.

“This means a lot of her teachers are highly qualified, and that is something parents want to hear about teachers and the school,” said Komarnisky. “Sydney is the oldest of five children and we will definitely look into this when our other children reach high school.”

Rio Salado College has partnered with 50 high schools throughout the Valley to make the dual enrollment program a reality. For a class to qualify for dual enrollment, the syllabus and textbooks are evaluated by Rio Salado to ensure it is a college-level course.

Dr. Vernon Smith, Dean of Instruction at Rio Salado College stated, “In order to teach dual enrollment classes through Rio Salado College, high school instructors must meet strict qualification requirements, which usually include having obtained a Master’s Degree in their teaching discipline and being approved by Rio’s Faculty Chair. Once qualified, these instructors teach the high school class using the college curriculum, so students are assured they are receiving the highest quality college experience early on.”

With parental permission, students can take online classes through Rio Salado College even if their high school does not have a dual enrollment partnership established.

Dual enrollment credits transfer to all Arizona public colleges and universities, as well as many public and private colleges and universities outside of Arizona. As college tuition rates continue to increase, Rio Salado College is holding steady and not raising tuition rates for the upcoming 2009-10 school year; thus, earning college credit in high school is one of the smartest decisions a parent or student can make.

For more information about the dual enrollment program, visit
or call 480.517.8080.