Should college and high school diplomas be earned together?

The term “college prep” as it relates to high school paths has a different meaning than when I was a teenager. The high school courses that I took that were “college prep” were designed to prepare me for higher education after I first earned my high school diploma. Today, it’s not uncommon for high school students to have several college credits before they walk across that graduation stage — and some may even have associate’s degrees. Dual enrollment, where students can simultaneously earn high school and college credits, is offered in schools across the country, and supported through legislation (and President Obama has been a vocal supporter of it).

While critics may say it’s just too much too soon for teens, I tend to lean the other direction. I think it’s important to zero in on what possible careers high school students may aspire to have as adults and to start them down the path early — before they have a chance to drop out and before life gets in the way.

Dual enrollment extends beyond traditional classroom settings, too. Virtual classes for both high school and college curriculum are available to teens and the ability to manage both is much more flexible with this setup. Recently, Coffee County Schools and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College (WGTC) announced a partnership called the Wiregrass Regional College and Career Academy that will give students in 11 Southern Georgia counties a chance to take classes from both a fully accredited virtual high school and college. Students will be able to earn their high school diploma AND a college associate’s degree at the same time — with state-mandated tests and exams proctored at locations throughout the area. What’s more — the program is FREE through the state’s Move on When Ready initiative. The schools will tap K-12 virtual learning curriculum Odysseyware for course completion.

Earning both a high school diploma AND a college degree at the same time is certainly not for every student – but should be an option for those who are ready to jump start their careers.

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