The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


September 17, 2013

Getting a jump on college | Plaudits to dual-enrollment program

JOHNSTOWN — The cost of higher education seems to climb each year, and it’s becoming more and more difficult for young people to afford a college degree. It often takes more than four years to earn a degree, and when students do finally graduate they are burdened with a mountain of debt that will keep them paying off student loans for years to come.

Students and faculty at Greater Johnstown High School are finding a way to ease some of those problems. Two dual-enrollment programs associated with Pennsylvania Highlands Community College – Associate Degree in High School and Accelerated College Education – are gaining popularity. The programs allow students to not only prepare themselves for college, but to make real progress toward a degree.

In fact, some will actually have their associate degree on the day they get their high school diploma.

“They have a very abbreviated college commitment and cost to earn their bachelor’s degree,” said Amy Arcurio, Johnstown’s ninth-grade principal.

Johnstown is far from the only local school that allows students to earn college credits, but it is one of the biggest. Participation in the program doubled in the past year at Johnstown, jumping from about 150 students last year to more than 300 this year. Students at Johnstown don’t wait until their junior or senior years to get involved. Instead, they can begin in ninth grade.

“It saves time and money,” Johnstown freshman Cassandra Helsel told reporter Frank Sojak. “It also prepares you for further education by preparing  you with what you need.”

What a fantastic program. It makes college an attainable goal for those who might not have otherwise seen it as such; it helps others get a jump-start on post-secondary education; and it enables many to enter the professional world, a degree in hand, the moment they leave high school.

That rates an A+ in our book.

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