Students seek expansion of dual enrollment program

From left, Kinsey Wilk, 17, of Fort Valley; Alexandra Kahl, 17, of Basye; and Tyler Hinkle, 17, of Quicksburg, recently made a presentation to school administrators on why the county's dual enrollment program needs to be expanded. Kaley Toy/Daily

MOUNT JACKSON – Massanutten Regional Governor’s School students explained to Shenandoah County educators this week why expanding course offerings at the college level is important for high school students. Some of their reasons include giving students the opportunity to earn the governor’s scholars certificate and an associate’s degree as well as saving time and money before moving on to college.

The dual enrollment program involves students being enrolled in two separate academically related institutions, such as their home high school and Lord Fairfax Community College or Massanutten Regional Governor’s School.

Kinsey Wilk, of Fort Valley, Alexandra Kahl, of Basye, and Tyler Hinkle, of Quicksburg, explained to county educators, including Stonewall High School Principal Mike Dorman and Susan Fream, director of the governor’s school,  how Shenandoah County falls behind neighboring Page County in dual enrollment numbers.

Alexandra, 17, said that the current program is “not as intimidating as it sounds” and more students should be a part of it to allow for more program offerings.

The number of program offerings available to students is dependent on the number of students enrolled in each high school’s program. If more students participate in the program, more courses can be offered.

Kinsey, 17, said out of the 448 anticipated 2016 graduates from Shenandoah County, six have earned a governor’s scholar certificate, which is a one year program, and two have earned their associate’s degree, representing only 2 percent of the graduates. Kinsey and Tyler were the two students earning their associate’s degree from Lord Fairfax Community College and Alexandra earned a governor’s scholar certificate.

In Page County, she added, out of the 252 anticipated 2016 graduates, 28 have earned a governor’s scholar certificate and six earned their associate’s degree, representing 13 percent of the graduates.

Kinsey also explained how the three high schools in Shenandoah County compare in the governor’s scholar program. Strasburg High School had no students in the program, Central High School had three students, representing 2 percent of their senior class, and Stonewall Jackson High School had five students, representing 5 percent of their senior class.

Strasburg High School offered 28 credit hours toward their associate’s degree, Central High School offered 45 credit hours and Stonewall Jackson offered 111 credit hours.

Alexandra said that the dual enrollment program is beneficial to students because:

• It saves money for college.
• It provides an introduction to college-level work.
• It allows time for a double major.
• It helps students get into competitive programs.
• It allows time for study abroad programs.
• It allows time for work study or internships.
• It’s a great start for first-generation college attendees.

The students also explained how the dual enrollment program can be expanded to provide more equity across the county.

Kinsey said Shenandoah County schools should collaborate with Page County and discover what makes their program successful. Kinsey also said the principals need to work together to find solutions to expand the program with ideas such as sharing faculty members and allowing students to commute between the schools or providing the transportation. Guidance collaboration was another suggestion Kinsey recognized as counselors can inform interested students about the program offerings at the various schools.

Tyler, 17, said data and feedback from current seniors needs to be gathered and evaluated to create a long-term countywide plan using the data, but keeping in mind each school’s unique characteristics.

Katie Rice, supervisor of career and technical and STEM for the Shenandoah County Public Schools, said students are able to take courses at Lord Fairfax Community College while still attending high school, for a reduced rate.

“Students are responsible for 25 percent of the tuition rate,” she said. “This is a change as of this school year from 50 percent last year, which certainly makes it a more affordable option now than in the past.”

Students also do not have to pay for books because they are provided by the school division, she added.

There were 523 dual enrollment students who earned 2,650 credits this year, an increase from last school year’s 497 dual enrollment students earning 2,196 credits.

“We are certainly working hard to increase the number of students who are earning the governor’s scholars certificate and associate’s degrees and this year demonstrates an increase in students obtaining those credentials over the past year,” Rice said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com