Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Isaiah Stephenson took dual-credit courses at IPFW that helped make him a sophomore at Huntington University.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Carter Chase, 20, took dual credits starting at age 16 at Ivy Tech, which helped him transfer smoothly into pre-med classes at IPFW, where he is now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:39 am

In college, while still in high school

Jamie Duffy The Journal Gazette

Isaiah Stephenson was so impressed with the dual-credit psychology class he took at IPFW as a high school senior that he made the subject a minor in college.

The class was one of four dual-credit classes that, along with several Advanced Placement courses, gave him sophomore status when he enrolled at Huntington University.

"I think it’s a phenomenal program," said Stephenson, who was North Side High School’s 2010 valedictorian. "It was a great opportunity for high school students to slowly transition, to become more accustomed to the college work level. It’s a bit more difficult than the high school work level."

Stephenson’s foray into college-level courses in high school is part of a booming trend. Dual-credit classes, normally taken during junior and senior years either at high school or on a college campus, allow students to earn high school and college credit simultaneously.

Statewide, there was a nearly 53 percent increase from 2012 to 2014 in the number of students enrolled in dual-credit courses, a number that reached more than 62,000 high school students in 2014, said Tari Lambert, director of Transfer Indiana Central Office with the Indiana Commission on Higher Education.

The greatest provider of dual credits is Ivy Tech Community College, a statewide system with 32 branches. Others who partner with local high schools include Vincennes University, Trine University, University of Saint Francis and IPFW.

Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, which serves nine northeastern Indiana counties including Allen, has seen the number of high school students in these courses grow from 5,761 in 2012 to 10,720 this year, said Dawn BonAmi, Ivy Tech Northeast’s director of Academic Affairs Support Services for Secondary Education.

Similarly, numbers have mushroomed at IPFW, where four years ago about 2,000 students were enrolled in dual-credit courses. For this school year, the number of students is nearly 7,000, according to Ann Souligny Brown, IPFW’s coordinator of the Collegiate Connection.

Most of the Ivy Tech courses are taught at high schools by teachers who are vetted and accredited by Ivy Tech. Those courses are free. Students pay for classes they take on Ivy Tech’s campus, BonAmi said.

The push for dual-credit classes came at the state level in the mid-2000s when there was a "flurry" of policy-setting and guidance for dual credit in Indiana, said Adam Lowe, executive director at the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

"Those (policies) led to growth and also put in place some quality standards, so there was some consistency in how dual credit was provided across the state," he said.

Dual-credit courses existed as early as the 1970s in southern Indiana and were started by Vincennes University, the current provider-partner at East Allen University in East Allen County Schools. In the 1980s, Indiana University and Indiana State University began offering dual-credit courses in southern Indiana, Lowe said.

In the northern part of the state, the growth has been relatively recent.

"The last five years has seen significant growth, but the dual-credit system has been growing rapidly in the last 10 years," Lowe said.

Taking dual-credit courses is linked to college completion, Lambert said.

"We know from research that students who completed dual credits have a much greater chance of persisting in that first year and earning a credential as well," said Lambert, whose office is at Ball State University.

Students who qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches most generally take these courses for free at high school and at the institution, but not all of them, Lambert said. State law only applies to state-funded universities and colleges, not at private institutions, she added. General education classes where the fees apply include American history, English composition, microeconomics, macroeconomics, college algebra, calculus, physics, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Latin, among others.

The balance of the students taking dual-credit courses most generally get them free at high school but pay a minimum of $25 if they take them at a college. Ivy Tech is more generous than others and offers many free courses, Lambert said.

Carter Chase, 20, was home-schooled and started taking dual-credit courses at Ivy Tech when he was 16 years old.

He graduated from high school at age 18 with 31 college credits after taking courses throughout his junior and senior high school years.

He chose Ivy Tech over other local colleges because fees for him as a home-schooler were not reduced and Ivy Tech was the best bargain, he said.

"They were inexpensive. My sisters had been going there, and they (Ivy Tech) had a good relationship with IPFW and very good class sizes," Chase said.

"I wasn’t this little 16-year-old sitting in a class of 30 20-somethings," Chase said. "The biggest class I had was 12 or 14 (students.)" The courses he took at Ivy Tech were English composition, speech, two semesters of Spanish, calculus and chemistry, he added. He is now a student at IPFW.

High school students "can walk out of here with over almost 47 credits," Ivy Tech’s BonAmi said. Sixty credits are needed for an associate degree, she added.

Be they automotive or other technical courses or general education courses, Ivy Tech does not make money on dual-credit courses. But the hope is that the student will continue at the school, BonAmi said.

As for Stephenson, he graduates this year from Huntington with a major in economics and finance and another in business management. He will graduate with a triple minor in sociology, computer science and, yes, psychology.

For him, part of the magic of the dual-credit classes was to be in the actual college classroom with college students. "I even met some friends there," he said.

jduffy@jg.net