SPS, college sign agreement
Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Suffolk Public Schools and Paul D. Camp Community College have signed an agreement allowing high school students to complete an associate degree or general studies certificate while earning their high school diplomas.
The agreement, signed last month, is in response to a law that Gov. Bob McDonnell signed in April 2012, requiring Virginia’s community colleges and local school systems to cooperate on the programs.
Phyllis Sharpe, Suffolk Public Schools’ coordinator of high school instruction, said the two parties actually have been coordinating to provide high school students with associate degrees since the 2006-2007 school year, and the one-year general studies certificates since 2011-2012.
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“Those practices were already in place for us,” she said, adding that the agreement is simply something the new law mandated.
Five Suffolk high school students graduated with associate degrees in 2010, and two each in 2012 and 2013.
No Suffolk high school student has yet graduated with a certificate, which, though it translates into a one-year college certificate, is completed over several years, Sharpe said.
She cited a number of benefits to students and their parents from earning a degree or certificate before even graduating from high school.
“It gives them the opportunity to have that college experience, because it requires classes on a college campus and college registration,” she said.
“It gives them practice for moving to a four-year institution, (and) it’s a benefit to the parents, because community college tuition is a little lower than for a four-year institution.”
Also, Sharpe said, state universities are required to accept credit transfers from state community colleges. “Private universities have the discretion to decide,” she added.
Even when credits do not transfer, dual-enrollment students are often still able to start university as sophomores or first-semester juniors, she said.
Dual enrollment also stands out on a resume, according to Sharpe, and students who earn college credit can attain recognition under the Governor’s Early College Scholars Agreement.
She recommends students interested in dual enrollment, as well as Suffolk Public Schools’ Project Lead The Way and International Baccalaureate programs, to get organized early.
“When they are in the eighth grade, they need to be thinking about what they’d like to do (and) which program they’d like to participate in,” she said.
“You can always catch up, but catching up is more of a challenge.”