What parent wouldn't want to give their students an early start in college that would save thousands in tuition fees. That is what is happening at Fitch High School through the dual-credit classes.
"We are one of the first high schools to have this pilot program through YSU," said senior guidance counselor Maribeth McGlynn. "Our teachers become adjunct professors and when students pass their classes, they gain college credits."
She said the teachers take the courses and tests at Youngstown State University to be able to teach college courses. Not all teachers make the grade, but those who do return to Fitch and are able to teach a course at an actual college level.
The dual-credit courses include AP calculus, AP chemistry, American literature and diversity, introduction to statistics, and physics. Students have to be able to work at a college level to take the classes, and if they pass them, they earn both high school credit for graduation as well as credit for college.
Fitch Principal Doug McGlynn said the dual-credit courses cost $49 per credit and if someone were to push the limits, they could graduate high school with as much as 30 credit hours. He said they could actually finish their college freshmen year as they graduate high school.
"Parents could end up paying around $1,500 for the first year of college that could cost up to $10,000," he said. "That is a big savings over college tuition."
He added that the student could be starting college as a sophomore.
Another big plus for the program is that the adjunct professors at Fitch would be more approachable than the college professor. He said in college, when a student wants to talk to a professor about his or her class, it may mean waiting days or trying to schedule an appointment. At Fitch, the adjunct professors are also high school teachers and thus would be approachable when it came to one-on-one assistance.
Doug McGlynn said the college credits are accepted at all Ohio state universities. He said private colleges and universities may or may not accept it.
Fitch also offers AP courses in chemistry, calculus, American literature and British literature, that are geared to prepare students for college. Although those courses aren't dual-credit, they do help prepare the student for the kind of work colleges expect. It also helps lower the number of high school graduates who need remediation in their first year of college. The only difference in the AP and the dual-credit courses is that the dual-credit courses are taught by the adjunct professors.
Maribeth McGlynn said students who can handle the AP and dual-credit courses often can achieve almost all of their high school graduation requirements in their junior year. In the past, these students would take minimal courses in the senior year and sit back awaiting graduation day. Those days have changed and Maribeth McGlynn said today, colleges look at how rigorous a schedule the students have taken. She said it is important for a senior with the needed credits to continue to keep a full schedule of challenging course work.
"Colleges look at what courses students take and how rigorous they are," Maribeth said. "They want the four to five years of math and English, so it is important that kids don't miss a challenge."
Doug said statistics have shown just what type of student qualifies for the advanced and dual-credit courses.
"Kids who qualify for the courses and take the test are high learners," he said. "Stats show those kids will finish their four-year degrees."
This fall, Fitch will add oral communications and composition I to the dual-credit courses. Doug McGlynn said this is a course that is a requirement at colleges. He said the hope is to also pilot a psychology course.
Doug McGlynn said not all students are college material. Some do better with hands-on careers and are more geared to technical schools. He said at Fitch, those students are also being considered through offerings that will help them get started after graduation. This school year, Fitch has its first class in innovation and design, which deals with design and computer-aided drafting operation.
"This will get the kids ready for tech school," Doug said.
Both Maribeth and Doug agree that the move to dual-credit courses and the tech school prep course will help Austintown students get a jump on their post-graduation years. In the end, the students can jump into college with minimal remediation and college credit, the parents can save money in college costs, and the colleges get students who can succeed and get their degree.