Rachel Matyi will graduate from Ligonier Valley High School next month, but before she gets her diploma from the Westmoreland County school she’ll get one from Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.
And when she heads to the University of Pittsburgh, she won’t be freshman. She’ll already have the academic standing of a junior.
That’s because Matyi is one of a growing number of local students who is participating in a dual-enrollment program that allows students to earn college credits while still in high school.
Matyi is one of three Ligonier Valley students – Hannah Pelger and Jessica Deem are the others – who already have accumulated 61 college credits to earn a Penn Highlands degree as part of the college’s first graduating class from the Associate in High School program.
“That’s great,” Ligonier Valley Principal Tim Kantor said. “It’s a tribute to their hard work and focus on academics.”
The programs don’t just allow students to get a head start on college; they also can result in big financial savings.
Deem, who is planning to become a pediatric oncologist, said she will save $50,000 or more by taking the classes in high school as opposed to college.
“That’s pretty impressive,” she said.
Adding it up
For Deem, it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
“It is so convenient to be able to pay a little bit of money per credit compared to the amount you’d pay in actual college,” she said. “You have to take the same high school classes you have to take anyway. At the end of high school, you would have credits already added up for college.”
Penns Manor senior Meagan Hilty is the fourth member of the inaugural class. She crammed the 61-credit requirement into three years, as she did not start participating in it until she was a sophomore.
“I shrank the program into three years,” said Hilty, who took summer classes to make up the difference. “It was a lot more challenging.”
Hilty, who plans to take premedical courses in college, didn’t take all of her courses through Penn Highlands. She also took some through Mount Aloysius. High schools in the Johnstown region also offer classes at Allegany College of Maryland, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, St. Francis University and Pitt.