Let’s face it. Much as you hate to admit it, Mom and Dad do a lot for you. A roof over your head, heat in the winter, cooling in the summer, food, clothes, books, phone, trips… all the things you will have to pay for yourself in the “real world.” So why not take advantage of that relaxing environment and squeeze a little college into your high school career? It’s not a difficult as you think. And it’s truly a smart way to save money on college tuition. If you accumulate college credits while you’re still living at home you can take a huge bite out of your time spent in college.
The easiest way to take advantage of this tactic is through Dual Enrollment. These are classes that are taught at your high school which earn college and high school credits. One example at Prescott High School is the special English 7/8 classes taught by Pam Willard and Beth Beecham. This is an actual college English 101/102 class but students pay no fee to receive credit from Yavapai College. This is not an easy class, in fact it’s very challenging and Pam Willard believes that if the students have a history of good grades they will be able to do well in the program. On the other hand Willard says both she and Beecham have students who are under a lot of pressure to keep their grade up in the class because they don't have the English and Writing background they should have to support them. Willard says that the students without this support could face a tough time. She says, “They are struggling with the demands of this class. They are not ready for it.” Students do have to score 85% or above on the Yavapai College English placement exam before being allowed to sign up for the class. At PHS, the test is given in the spring. It's a first come first served placement into the two sections. Last year there were approximately 65 applicants, and 60 students got into the class. Two have since dropped and one has moved away. Because of the difficulty of the class, plus the fact that one of the classes is “Early Bird” meaning the students have to be at the high school at 7 am, demonstrates that students need to have a high level of dedication to take this course.
You can also take a class at college and get “concurrent credit”. This means you can get high school and college credit at the same time while taking the class at college. Anytime you can take a college class while in high school the credits will add up. You must get pre-approval from your advisement counselor before the class starts, but that is generally just paperwork.
Sometimes taking a college class during high school becomes a necessity. Some students don’t really pay close attention to their class schedules through the years, and may come up short. For example say it’s your senior year, you’re heading to a U of A and suddenly find out that universities require two years of foreign language prior to admittance. You’re a senior, so you don’t have two years to take a foreign language class. If you take the class at a local college, one semester counts for one year of high school credit. So you can get it done in one year. Also, as far as foreign language is concerned you’ll have a larger variety of classes to choose from, such as Sign Language or German.
Prescott High School’s Aerospace Science Leadership Academy (ASLA) is another option for college credits during high school. The class is affiliated with the United States Air Force and through that has a relationship with University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. If you take any of the classes under the umbrella of ASLA, which includes Science, World Geography, and Physical Education and receive an A or B in the class, you can pay an enrollment fee of $110 to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and receive two hours of transcripted elective college credit. This elective credit is transferable to any accredited college in the nation. PHS ASLA department chair Col. Denny Peeples has more information on this program.
A very unique opportunity for accumulating college classes during the summer exists in the Federal Upward Bound programs. Students must apply for a spot in these programs, and it is competitive. Embry Riddle's program is open to students attending high school in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley or Mayer. All Upward Bound program students must be the first generation in their family to attend college, or have a low family income. There is also an Upward Bound Math and Science at Northern Arizona University. The NAU program is aimed at Four Corners schools , which have mostly Native American students. I know of one student who was enrolled in the Yavapai College Educational Talent Search program and as a result, got the information about the Four Corners program. This particular student was not from the target schools, but was still chosen as an alternate for the program after she completed her freshman year of high school. When a student from one of the target schools wasn’t able to join the program she was called at the last minute and took that slot. Once you are in the program, if you keep re-applying each year your spot is safe. This student went for three summers and not only got an interesting exposure to Native culture, but took science and math classes, practice ACT tests, received tutoring, career exploration, financial aid information, ongoing academic support, field trips, was paid for keeping up program paperwork throughout the school year, and accumulated 3 college credits per summer. And it’s all free.
If you are dedicated to getting as many college credits as possible, there are summer school classes taught at the local colleges. Yavapai offers a large variety of classes, but it’s important to make sure you can handle them before you jump in. I know of a straight-A student who wanted to take Spanish at Yavapai during the summer after her sophomore year. It soon became apparent that a summer class is much more intense than a class during a regular semester. The instructor has to cover the same amount of material given in fall or spring semester, but they have a shorter time span. This student couldn’t make it and wisely dropped out before the grade would affect her transcript. Luckily she discovered this early enough to take her foreign language at her high school. The colleges also offer electives, which are needed for graduation, so perhaps it’s wiser to take a “lighter” class. You can also take late afternoon and evening college classes, but be sure to balance that load with your regular high school classes.
Yavapai College makes a generous offer to Yavapai County high school juniors and seniors. The Summer Bridge Grant is available the summer you finish your junior and senior years, or if you’ve received your GED within the last 6 months. This grant pays the full amount of tuition for a three credit hour class at Yavapai College. In addition Yavapai offers the Jump Start grant for juniors and seniors during their fall and spring semesters. This also pays full tuition for one three credit class. Assistant Financial Aid Director Debbie Beck says that the programs are “basically about getting high school students a college experience, getting them on campus.”
If you take advantage of all these resources for college credits, you could end up subtracting an entire semester from your college career. And that adds up to some real money, and time.