High school students take college coursework

Theresa Montgomery

Beth English, a senior at Kenston High School, has been attending college classes since she was a junior. English attended Lakeland Community College her junior year of high school. SAMANTHA RAINWATER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Laura Pickens took 15 credit hours last semester and is working on another 15-hour batch this semester. Attending Kent State while she is still a senior at Crestwood High School in Mantua, however, has taken some getting used to.

“The thought of moving from a high school to a college atmosphere – and being a lowly freshman – made me incredibly nervous,” Pickens said. “But my first class, my professor was really low-key and a lot of fun. That worked out really well.”

Pickens is one of 75 high school students taking classes at the Kent campus, said Becky Gares, coordinator of advising and early admission programs at the Honors College. There are more than 700 high school students in the Post Secondary Education Option Program among the eight-campus system, Gares said.

The transition didn’t take long for Pickens.

“The hardest part was my first English class,” said Pickens, 17. “My professor singled me out as a post-secondary student. She was concerned about my grammar and my keeping up.”

It turned out well, Pickens said.

“She just told me I got the second highest grade in the class, so I’m very excited.”

High school students in the program tend to adapt to the new challenges of college classes quickly, Gares said.

“These are bright, prepared students, looking to explore, and ready for a new experience,” Gares said.

Established by the Ohio Senate in 1989, the post-secondary program is intended to “promote rigorous academic pursuits,” and give more options to high school students, according to the Ohio Department of Education Web site.

Originally, only high school juniors and seniors were allowed to participate, according to the Web site. The program has since been expanded through successive legislation to include freshmen and sophomores, from public and nonpublic schools throughout the state.

The law also sets a minimum high school grade point average of 3.0 in the field of study for the college course a post-secondary student wants to take.

In addition to opportunities for personal and academic growth, the program can provide high school students a financial incentive to go through the program.

There are two options for post-secondary students. They can receive only college credit for their coursework (Option A), or simultaneously receive credit for both college and high school (Option B).

Option B, is by far the most popular, Gares said.

“That option allows students to come to campus, take classes, and borrow textbooks from their individual high school. Academically, certainly, when you’re earning free academic coursework while you’re still in high school, that’s a benefit,” Gares said.

Attending both high school and college classes opens doors to two worlds.

“When I meet new people, I tell them I’m a college student,” said Beth English, a senior at Kenston High School.

English, 18, began participating in the program as a junior. She is carrying 17 credit hours at Kent State this semester, and by the time she graduates from high school this June, she will have accumulated 62 college credit hours.

English has two older brothers who went through the program at the Geauga campus. Their experience fed her interest in the program.

“My brothers were really excited about it. It gave them a lot more freedom and independence,” English said.

English had to be a bit persistent to convince her teachers of her desire to go beyond the Advanced Placement classes offered on the high school level and attend college classes, she said.

“Lots of them discouraged it,” English said of the initial reactions of her high school teachers. “But now, they really are excited for me.”

At her June 2 graduation this year, English will have one last moment of being not a college, but a high school student.

“I’ll walk with my class,” English said, lowering her head and smiling. “That means a lot to me.”

Contact features correspondent Theresa Montgomery at [email protected].