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The CantonRep
  • For Stark County students, college can start in high school

  • Stark County high school students have the option of taking college classes at their high school, on a college campus or online through dual enrollment programs.
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  • Marissa Biclawski is in her second semester of college, but she’s already considered a sophomore.
    While the 19-year-old Kent State University at Stark student attended Jackson High School, she also spent half of her day at the college, studying psychology, sociology, writing and math.
    Stark County high school students have the option of taking college classes at their high school, on a college campus or online through dual enrollment programs. The experience introduces high school students to the academic demands of college and the social environment — and it puts them ahead in credit hours once they sign up full-time.
    “Any way you do it, it’s a great opportunity,” said Lisa Givan, pre-college programs coordinator for Kent State University at Stark.
    COLLEGE AT HIGH SCHOOL
    Early College High School, a program run in collaboration between the Canton City School District and Stark State College, gives students the chance to earn an associate degree while they complete their high school diplomas.
    This year’s class will be the sixth to graduate. Around 30 students are on track to join the about 150 in the school’s history who have earned both degrees, Principal Ken Brunner said.
    Most who complete the program transfer their two years of college credit and pursue bachelor’s degrees at public universities across the state.
    “You’re, in a sense, going to cut your bill in almost half,” Brunner said.
    The Early College High School students who earn college credit but not enough to get an associate degree are encouraged to enroll at Stark State College to finish.
    Canton’s program is one of 16 in the state. It’s designed to reach first-generation college students — and not those at the top of their class.
    Dennis Trenger, director of outreach at Stark State College, said most of the program’s participants “are not 3.0 students generally.”  
    “A lot of these kids didn’t have college in their vocabulary,” he said.
    He gets to hand them their diplomas when they attend Stark State’s graduation.
    “It’s so neat when I see those faces come up the stairs,” he said. “You couldn’t imagine that feeling.”
    Students can also take college classes at other area high schools.
    Kent State Stark offers 12 classes  — including Spanish, chemistry and art history — at four high schools. Those courses are taught by a high school teacher who has earned adjunct status with the university, Givan said.
    Some Stark State College classes are offered to students online, and they meet in a computer lab at their high schools and log on.
    Page 2 of 3 - The students have access to both a college instructor and their high school teacher, who provides in-person support, Trenger said.
    COLLEGE ON CAMPUS
    Last year, 550 Stark County high school students took classes on a college campus, according to a report from Stark Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization that attempts to increase opportunities for students in the public school districts.
    Of those, 256 attended Stark State College, and close to 300 took college courses at other area colleges and universities.
    Allexis Stotzer, a Fairless High School graduate who attends Kent State University Stark campus, said her incentive for taking college classes while she was a junior and senior and high school was to get some of her general education requirements finished so she could move on to higher-level courses.
    Her plan is to transfer to Kent State’s main campus and eventually earn her doctorate.
    Givan said participating in college-based dual enrollment is “an opportunity to try on before you have to buy.”
    It allows students to sample different college environments and exposes them to the diversity college offers, she said. A 16-year-old student might work on a group project with a 60-year-old student and get a social lesson along with an academic one.
    “It develops the total student,” she said.
    OTHER OPTIONS
    Students who don’t choose to enroll in classes through an area university can instead take nationally recognized courses that might also yield college credit.
    During the 2012-13 school year, more than 2,100 students earned a high enough score on an Advanced Placement test to qualify them for college credit, according to the Stark Education Partnership report.
    Mike Bayer, director of curriculum and instruction for Stark County Educational Service Center, said the decision about whether to take college courses or Advanced Placement classes depends on where the student intends to go for college and the level of rigor he or she is looking for.  
    He said the initial worry when dual enrollment was introduced in 2006 and 2007 was that the program would decrease the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes — but it hasn’t. Instead, he said, more Stark County students are taking advantage of college options.
    In 2001, less than half of students graduating from Stark County high schools attended college. Now 63 percent pursue higher education, according to the Stark Education Partnership report.
    THE BENEFITS
    When Biclawski graduated from high school and enrolled at Kent State Stark full time, she heard her classmates who hadn’t gone to college yet talking about the intensity of the workload and the added responsibilities.
    She said attending a university while still in high school helped her gauge whether she’d be prepared academically and showed her some of the cultural differences — such as not needing to raise a hand to talk or not having to ask to leave class.
    Page 3 of 3 - “It’s just a good learning experience to see how college is set up,” she said.
    Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @amatasREP
    WHERE TO LEARN MORE
    Area colleges and universities with dual enrollment options:
    At high school
    Kent State University Stark campus
    Kent State University main campus
    Kent State University Tuscarawas campus
    Stark State College
    University of Mount Union
    University of Akron
    Walsh University
    On campus
    Kent State University Stark campus
    Kent State University main campus
    Kent State University Tuscarawas campus
    Stark State College
    University of Mount Union
    University of Akron
    Walsh University
    Malone University
    SOURCE: Stark County Educational Service Center͏