Mt. Pleasant Community High School senior Bailey Shelledy wants to work in the medical field. Growing up with “major health concerns” he will have for the rest of his life, Shelledy has had some amazing and not so amazing doctors, an experience that has instilled in him a desire to be that “amazing person” in his future patients’ lives.
“I want to be that bright, shining person to help you with your health,” Shelledy said, adding he wants a career as either a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist.
Both of those fields require a lot of school and a lot of money to pursue, but Shelledy had an early start in his college career, taking his first college class last year at Southeastern Community College as a junior in high school and continuing pursuing college credits at Iowa Wesleyan University this year.
While dual-enrollment is not new to IW, university Provost DeWayne Frazier said the trend continues to increase across the country as the cost of tuition increases. It allows students to take general education courses in high school that will later help them finish their degree within four years instead of being pressured into taking 18 credit hours a semester or summer classes.
“These students are seeing what it’s like to be an independent learner,” Frazier said. “(College classes) teach them independence and different study habits and skills that will make them successful.”
Shelledy, who said he has a lot of confidence in his abilities in school, completed many of the Advanced Placement classes offered at MPCHS before looking into dual-enrolling. He chose college courses over taking an AP English class this year because passing a class is a surer way to get college credit than trying to pass a test. To get college credit for an AP class, students have to pass the test with a score of three or higher.
The choice between AP high school classes or dual-enrolling is a choice dependent on the student, said Jennifer Crull, IW Assistant Professor of Business and member of the MPCSD board. A student has to be highly motivated to dual enroll. They have to leave their high school and come to class on a college campus several days a week.
“During the school year, we’re having class when (MPCHS) isn’t in session,” Crull said. “They have to show up on those days. The Friday of Old Threshers, my students are having class. This Friday, (MPCHS) is out for teacher professional development. My dual-enroll student still has to be here.”
That isn’t the only reason for students to be cautious of dual-enroll classes. MPCHS Principal Todd Liechty said when students are considering taking a college class, he tries to scare both them and their parents.
“What parents need to understand is the student is creating a college transcript,” Liechty said. “Once they enroll as a college student, we really are no help to them. They’re dealing with college coursework, a college professor.”
As a member of the school board, Crull said she wants to make sure the district and IW isn’t allowing a student into a situation where they can’t be successful. “If I have a student who wants to dual-enroll I need to make sure they’re going to be a responsible student,” she said. “If I haven’t seen that level of responsibility in their work at the high school level, even though academically I believe they can do it, that would be something that would concern me.”
When an MPCHS student takes an online college class for the first time, they are required to do it in the library. After they’ve demonstrated they can do the work and if they are seniors, the students are then allowed to take that class off campus, Liechty said.
Despite Liechty’s warning, he thinks every high school student should take a college class before they graduate.
“Kids need to experience a college class when they’re still at home and parents can provide oversight,” Liechty said. “If they go and nobody is looking over them they may not do what it takes to be successful.”
However, Liechty thinks some students may take too many dual-enrollment classes. “They miss out on some of the coursework (at MPCHS) that would be important,” he said.
Liechty also does not encourage dual-enrollment over AP courses, saying he likes the idea of the AP classes being college-level work under the guise of the high school.
For any student considering dual-enrolling, Shelledy advises them not to “jampack” their schedule. College classes may seem easy at first, but they can be extremely demanding, he said, adding that it not only affects a high school transcript, but it’s also impacting a college transcript as well.
“Make sure you do it in moderation,” Shelledy said.
There are 50 to 75 MPCHS students a semester who take dual-enrollment classes with IW and SCC, which is about 10 percent of the student body. SCC classes are paid for through the Iowa Department of Education’s Senior Year Plus program, which provides high school students access to courses that have the potential to generate college credit. It still is the students’ responsibility to purchase any course materials needed.
IW classes are paid for through Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), which pays back colleges at a rate of $250 per class. Additionally, IW itself covers the cost of textbooks for high school students. The regular rate of a class at IW is $745 a credit hour or $425 a credit hour for an online class.
“Schools that do it do it because they are trying to support a community and expose high school students to their university,” Frazier said, adding that some universities don’t accept PSEO because of the low rate of return per class.
Students who don’t pass the class have to pay for the class themselves.
Crull doesn’t think students should let their apprehension toward entering their first college classroom deter them from pursuing the experience. Not only is it an important step toward their educational future, but it helps them learn how to work with new people under different expectations.
Crull actually finds high school students to bring a little less fear into the college classroom. For them to be sitting in her macroeconomics class, it means they have background knowledge in economics when a lot of college freshmen may not.
“They have some information and knowledge,” Crull said. “I think that makes them a little braver in that component of the class.”
Shelledy, who wants to be a nurse practitioner or nurse anesthetist someday, has found his professors to be very helpful. They’re always there when he has a question, but they also encourage him to be an independent thinker.
Enrolled in two college classes this semester and five high school classes while also juggling his work schedule at Breadeaux Pizza, Shelledy has learned balance and time management.
“It’s about figuring out when you need to start things and how you want to start it … You have to be very independent,” Shelledy said.
Shelledy is content with his choices to be a dual-enrolled student and is now considering IW in addition to a couple other colleges he applied to for next year.
With only a few months left of his high school career, Shelledy is focused on the future.
“I love Iowa Wesleyan, I love my professors, I love how the online classes are only eight weeks,” Shelledy said. “I prefer it much more to SCC. For me, it’s a better fit.”