What if your high-school student could get ahead of his or her classmates and save money by taking college classes — for free?
With the partnership between Valencia College and Orange County Public Schools, this prospect is a reality. The dual-enrollment program helps students to get a head start in their college careers by allowing them, as high-school students, to earn college credit at Valencia.
“According to the U.S. Department of Education, college credit earned prior to high-school graduation reduces the average time to degree and increases the likelihood of graduation for the students who participate in these programs,” Valencia’s website states. “There is great potential to further engage and motivate students to take academically rigorous courses that capture their interests. There is also evidence that dual enrollment increases academic performance and educational attainment.”
With dual enrollment at Valencia, students can take up to four courses — or 13 credit hours — each semester in the fall and spring and up to two courses — or seven credit hours — in the summer term. Although they take the classes at the college, they receive both high-school and college credit for them if they complete the class with a grade of “C” or better.
Windermere resident Katie Venezio, 19, graduated from West Orange High in 2015 with college credits, thanks to dual enrollment. After taking a year to complete her associate degree, Venezio is now about to start her first year at the University of Florida’s broadcast journalism program.
“It gives you the advantage to get ahead with your A.A. degree,” she said. “I did it my senior year full-time and didn’t take any classes at West Orange. I thought it really matured me and got me ready for college, and also it was free. I wish I had done two years, because I could have graduated (high school) with my A.A. and got both years free.”
Venezio was initially nervous about entering the program and thought the teachers and older students might be intimidating but was pleasantly surprised to find the experience was the complete opposite.
“The whole experience was awesome, and everyone was super great,” she said. “Whatever I needed — if I needed a workbook that was optional and an access code — I got. The teachers and staff at Valencia were super great, and the students were helpful and impressed that I was younger. I had the best time dual-enrolling.”
To be eligible for dual enrollment, OCPS requires that students must be a junior or senior in good standing with their respective high schools. OCPS and Valencia require that students demonstrate “academic readiness, social maturity, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and responsibility.” Additionally, they must have a 3.0 unweighted GPA, meet college-ready test score eligibility requirements, have parent or guardian approval and receive a school guidance-counselor recommendation before entering the program.
When she was in the program, Venezio took general-education classes, such as college algebra, English composition 1 and 2, fundamentals of speech and religious traditions. And because high-school courses typically take a year to complete — whereas college courses last only a semester — she felt she was getting more done in a shorter time than she had been in high school.
“I felt like I wasn’t wasting my time taking art or taking another elective at the high school and was using that time to get stuff I actually needed to take out of the way,” she said. “I had a lot to choose from, and you’re not limited because the college has way more to offer.”
Venezia said the benefits of the dual-enrollment are numerous. It save money and helps participants get a head-start on their college degrees. Furthermore, she said it helped her mature and prepare for the transition from high school to college. Additionally, she loved the flexibility of choosing her own classes and their times.
“It helped me grow up more and helped me transition,” she said. “Now I’m going to UF, and I’m not so intimidated going from high school to college. (Also) I was so tired of waking up at 6 a.m. and when I dual-enrolled, my first class didn’t start until 1 p.m. That gave me time to study, work out or do whatever in the morning.”
Her advice to current students who are interested in the dual-enrollment program is to go for it and to not worry about missing out on high school. She said when she began the program. she was worried about missing out on senior-year festivities, but she was still able to attend all of the senior events.
“Don’t be afraid to miss out on high school,” she said. “You can graduate with your A.A. — it’s possible if you do summer classes also. It’s there, it’s free, and it helps you get ahead.”
Valencia College Dual Enrollment Office West Campus, MC 4-48
1800 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].