By GINA KINSLOW
Glasgow Daily Times
Students from eight area high schools who take dual-credit courses through Western Kentucky University attended a dual-credit celebration Thursday at the university’s Glasgow campus.
WKU President Gary Ransdell was one of two guest speakers at the event. Ransdell reminded students that by taking dual-credit courses they are actually working on their baccalaureate degrees and can reduce the time they spend in college.
To graduate from WKU, students must have 120 credit hours, which can take four years or more to complete. High school seniors who don’t take dual-credit courses, or take very few of them, would be scheduled to graduate in 2018.
“If you come in with a significant number of dual-credit courses already behind you, you can shorten that time frame,” he said. “You can, maybe, even graduate in 2017, given the progress you are making.”
Ransdell urged high school juniors at the event to keep that in mind.
“You take dual-credit courses this year. You take them next year. You are shortening that four-year sequence of eight semesters to create a baccalaureate degree. That saves you time and save you and your family money,” he said.
The students Thursday came from Glasgow, Barren County, Adair County, Edmonson County, Green County, Metcalfe County, Monroe County and Hart County high schools.
The most important thing Ransdell wanted to communicate was maintaining focus on the goal of graduating from college.
“Don’t fail to finish,” Ransdell said. “The difference in lifetime income for a person who fails to complete a college degree and one who does complete a college degree is well over $1 million in earning potential in a lifetime.
“So the most important thing is to knock out as many dual-credit courses as you can this year and next year and come in and finish and graduate.”
Ransdell told the students that he wants to present them with their degree.
“I want to be the one at a WKU graduation ceremony to put that WKU degree in your hand,” he said. “I want to be the one who looks you in the eye and says, ‘Congratulations,’ knowing that you’ve worked hard to get there to achieve that goal.”
Also speaking Thursday was Jay Todd Richey, a former Barren County High School student and a WKU freshman, who took dual-credit courses while at BCHS. By doing so, he is ahead of some of his classmates. But he said he didn’t think the high school students would fully understand what it meant to be ahead until they started their freshman year of college.
“You are going to understand what professors are asking of you. You’re not going to be blown away when they ask you to write a 10-page research paper,” he said.
Also, by taking dual-credit courses, high school students can get many general education requirements out of the way before starting their freshman year, allowing them more time to be involved in student activities, organizations and clubs on campus, he said.
Richey is majoring in political science, economics and Chinese. He is also involved in WKU’s Chinese Flagship Program, which will allow him to spend four years taking classes and a fifth year studying abroad in China.
“I was able to do that because I’m already ahead to take the courses that are interesting for my major,” he said.
Many of the students who attended the event already knew they could graduate early from college by taking dual-credit courses.
Dual-credit courses at WKU are about 80 percent cheaper than traditional college courses. They are about $210 per class, whereas tuition for a typical class at WKU is about $1,100, said Dewayne Neeley, dual-credit program coordinator at WKU.
WKU offers dual-credit courses because it serves as an outreach opportunity for the university.
“It’s also a great recruitment effort, and it is also a good service to the students because it allows students to start their college career early and at a very low tuition rate,” he said.
Most dual-credit courses are offered on high school campuses, but some students travel to the WKU-Glasgow campus to take the courses.
“We also offer them on-line, but the vast majority are offered in the high school setting,” Neeley said.
Amy Hall and Jordan Mansfield, Glasgow High School juniors, took dual-credit courses two ways – online and on their high school campus.
Hall is looking to graduate early from college.
“I wanted to go ahead and try to get through school as quickly as I possibly can so I can pursue travel and (other things),” she said.
Mansfield took dual-credit courses in effort to save on the cost of tuition.
“I took them just to help my mom with finance(s),” she said.
Hall said she enjoyed taking the classes on the GHS campus because it helped her communicate with her professor.
“With me being in the high school setting, I could just go to him and talk to him,” she said. “It was on a smaller scale. I really liked that.”
As for taking the courses online, Mansfield said if she had a question she could just email her instructor and talk to him one-on-one.
“No one else interrupts,” she said. “It’s better that way.”
Students who take dual-credit courses tend to do be more successful in college than those who don’t take the courses.
“Evidence shows they are more than twice as likely to be retained and that they go on to complete their degrees at a much, much higher rate because it prepares them for the rigor of college work and really does give them a step up,” said Sharon Hunter, interim director of admissions at WKU.