Rob Jenkins - 09/20/09
High school students in my college classes? Who Knew?

I went into college teaching partly because I didn't want to deal with what I saw as the hassles of high school teaching: the helicopter parents, the immature students, the Jonas Brothers ring-tones.

Well, here I am, 25 years into a college teaching career ... and my classroom is full of high school students. The surprising thing is that I'm enjoying it. And I haven't been interrupted by JoBro once.

I know what you're thinking: "What's he talking about? Whoever heard of high school students taking college classes?"

What I'm talking about is a program known as Dual Enrollment (formerly Joint Enrollment). And you're right: very few people seem to have heard of it. That's the problem.

I say "problem" because Dual Enrollment may just be the greatest educational breakthrough since the co-ed campus. Sponsored by the University System of Georgia, it allows qualified high school seniors (and some juniors) to take actual college classes, taught by actual college professors, for actual college credit.

That's real, honest-to-goodness college credit that transfers directly to any institution in the state system, as well as to many private and out-of-state institutions. Best of all, tuition is free through the state's Accel program. Students even get a small stipend to help with books.

That means students can take as many courses as they want, up to a full load. Two of my children, for instance, completed their freshman year of college while technically still high school seniors. Both were accepted into selective private universities, which also accepted all their Dual Enrollment hours. My daughter graduated from college two months before her 21st birthday.

I've even known students who started as juniors and finished their associates' degrees by the time they graduated from high school - leaving them only two years to get a bachelor's degree. (And about eight to get a Ph.D., if you're keeping score at home.)

Of course, not all students take that many hours. At Georgia Perimeter College, where I teach - and which has the state's largest DE program - many enroll in just a class or two to get a jump on their college coursework. Some even take DE classes at their local high schools, while others drive a short distance to one of GPC's five campuses.

The high school students I mentioned at the top, for instance, are all members of my early-morning ENGL 1101 class, which meets on campus and lets out in time for them to make it back to the high school for second period. When those students "start" college next fall, they'll still have a lot of classes left to take - but freshman comp won't be one of them.

If all this sounds like an incredible deal, well, that's because it is. But don't just take my word for it. Check out Dual Enrollment for yourself at www.gpc.edu/je, or stop by a GPC campus near you. I'd love to have you (or your high-school-age student) in one of my classes - even if you are a Jonas Brothers fan.