The Dual Credit Program at Parkland College, practically unheard of among area high school students just a few years ago, is experiencing unprecedented enrollment as more youth seek to take advantage of this early college credit option and new courses become available.
"Dual credit is completely worth it," said local student Sara Wells, who took dual credit this year at Champaign Central High School, calling it one of Parkland's "great opportunities."
Wells and 661 other students from 25 high schools in Parkland's district enrolled in dual credit courses this past spring semester, an increase of about 33% over last spring's numbers, according to Program Coordinator Rich Blazier. These students represent 12.2% of the high school juniors and seniors in the district. A duplicated headcount for spring classes showed that 923 seats were taken in all, a 39% increase over spring 2011.
Dual Credit allows eligible juniors and seniors aged 16 and up to take Parkland courses to earn credit simultaneously toward a high school diploma and a college degree. Students fulfill high school graduation requirements and, at the same time, earn college credits toward specialized certification, an associate's degree, or a bachelor's degree. Courses are offered at
Parkland, online, and at District 505 high schools.
The majority of spring's enrollees--87%--opted to take dual credit classes at their high schools, where 51 different courses were taught, most at little or no cost to students. High schools with the highest number of students enrolled in dual credit courses this spring were Centennial (74), St. Joseph-Ogden (73), Urbana (64), Prairie Central (51), Mahomet-Seymour (44) and Unity (41). Schools with the highest percentage of their junior/senior classes enrolled in dual credit were St. Joseph-Ogden (31.6%), Tuscola (25.6%), LeRoy (24%), Fisher (20%), Unity (17.3%), Heritage (17%) and Prairie Central (16.9%).
Blazier, a professor emeritus at Parkland, has experienced this unparalleled growth due to heavy recruitment efforts since taking charge of Parkland's dual credit program in 2008. Both students and teachers at the high schools are getting on board with the program. When he began four years ago, only a dozen high school teachers were teaching dual credit. "Today, we now have approximately 74 high school teachers certified to teach dual credit classes at their home school, with even more in the pipeline," Blazier said.
"My students love the class," Rantoul Township High School teacher Betty Jones said about the Dual Credit English class she teaches at the high school. "The students are more serious about their work, and they want to be in the class. They are very excited about getting college credit early and the money they save in the long run."
Along with growth in certified teachers and enrollments has come the opportunity to expand Parkland's dual credit course offerings. Blazier expects two new courses in the culinary arts to be added next year at Arcola and Champaign Central high schools: Foodservice Sanitation Certification (HPI 110) and Kitchen Basics (HPI 116), while a new dual credit Introduction to Welding course (WLD 111) will be offered at Monticello High School. General Chemistry I (CHE 101) is another new course to be offered at Monticello and St. Joe-Ogden, while Finite Mathematics (MAT 141) will be added to an already strong lineup of dual credit math courses taught at various high schools and is scheduled to be taught at LeRoy High School for the first time. Students completing these courses will be getting a head start on a number of Parkland degree and/or certificate options in Hospitality and Engineering Science and Technologies fields (Culinary Arts and Welding) or building general education credit for baccalaureate degrees (Chemistry 101and Math 141).
While, as of the present, no student taking Parkland Dual Credit has earned enough credit to graduate from Parkland and high school at the same time, a la Cuba High School's Tiffany Deakin*, many of them have been able to complete at least a semester or more of college as they leave high school. Blazier commented on dual graduation, saying "that's definitely not for
everyone, but it will be interesting to see what the future holds as the cost of college continues to go up."