High School Students Get Head Start on College Degree with Limestone's Dual Enrollment Program

By Alicia Smith '12

dual Enrollment

For the past 12 years, Limestone College has provided seniors at Blacksburg and Gaffney High Schools with the opportunity to sample life as a college student and get a head start on their college credits, all while remaining a full-time high school student.

The program is Limestone’s Dual Enrollment, and it’s a cooperative arrangement between the college and local schools that allows Cherokee County students to enroll in general education and introductory college courses. The classes, which cover disciplines such as English, mathematics, history, and music, are offered at $250 per course, one of the lowest rates available for a college credit.

An average of 120 students are enrolled each year in the dual enrollment program and that number is expected to increase. “To accommodate this continued growth, we increased the number of faculty teaching high school students English 101 and 102 and made several of our freshman level college courses available to high school students,” Travis McDowell, Associate Director of Admissions, explains. “This allows them to have the college experience, learn from college faculty, and learn with college students, all of which exposes them to new and different ways of thinking."

The use of full-time faculty members to teach sections for high school seniors in addition to their normal course load is part of Limestone’s commitment to the students who take part in the program. “I think that’s one of the things that really is a distinguishing mark of what we are able to offer as a small college,” Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of English Dr. Mark Reger points out. “If we were a large university, first year courses would often be taught by teaching assistants or adjuncts.” Instead Limestone places some of its best faculty, including Assistant Professor of Mathematics Professor Jerry Wright, Professor of English and English and Modern Languages Chair Dr. Alex Richardson, and Political Science and History Preceptor Carole Taylor, in front of their students to ensure that they receive the most fulfilling experience possible.

At the successful completion of each course, the student will then receive both high school credit towards graduation and academic credit towards a bachelor’s or associate’s degree at any institution of higher education where it is transferrable. Former dual enrollment students  have gone on to attend schools such as Clemson University, the University of South Carolina Upstate, and the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and Limestone.

The success of the program can be measured best through the students who completed it. Tanner Hamrick, a 2012 graduate, recalls his time in the dual enrollment program as a senior at Blacksburg High School. Tanner, who took English 101 and 102, found it to be just what he needed. “I was given the opportunity to transition into a college student while still having the benefits of being in high school. For instance, I was able to get a feel for what college was going to be like without being overloaded and bombarded with college level classes all at once. The classes that I took helped me mature into a college student much like being a college student helped me mature into a productive member of society.” Tanner is currently working for the Gaffney Police Department as he feels there is no “better place to protect and serve than the home of my alma mater.”

Tanner, who majored in Criminal Justice and minored in Computer Science, admits that while he was already interested in attending Limestone, it was the semesters he spent here as a senior that solidified his decision. And in that time, he realized that the program is more than just a way for students to get college credit. “The program is a way to grow into more than just the average high school student going to college just because that’s what they are supposed to do. By participating in the program, I got to have a grasp of what college is like before I had even made it there.” Another great aspect of the program, Tanner believes, is the fact that it provides positive exposure of Limestone as a school to prospective students. “It not only makes for an awesome recruiting tool but also a way for the student to become comfortable with a home for the next four years.”

Elizabeth Epperly, a 2008 graduate of Blacksburg High, shares a similar appreciation of the program. She is grateful for the English classes she enrolled in as a senior in high school as they not only fulfilled her English requirement for college but also helped her understand what would be expected of her in other courses. “I had a great experience as a student in the dual enrollment program. It is a major transition from high school to college, and I believe these classes helped me do that. They gave us college level assignments and expected college level work from us without forgetting we were high school students,” she explains. Elizabeth, who plans to become a middle school math and science teacher, is currently a student at East Carolina University and is double majoring in Biology and Middle Grades Education.

The response to the program has been just as positive from the students’ parents, Blacksburg High School Director of Guidance Brooke Cook reveals. “Students and parents are very receptive to dual enrollment classes,” she said. “They are excited to know they can earn college credits while in high school. They are also excited to take classes that have a higher weighting than many of their high school classes which can positively affect their GPA if they do well in the dual enrollment classes.”

On average, Blacksburg High has around 15 to 20 students while Gaffney High School has around 100 students enrolled each year. Ms. Donna Phillips, Guidance Department Chair at Gaffney High, relates the parents’ approval to more than just the educational components of the programs. “Parents are drawn to the fact that students are getting a chance to take more challenging courses and college credit at a lower cost.”

For Dr. Reger, the reasoning for making Limestone College’s dual enrollment program so accessible is simple. “Cherokee County is our home. This is where we are. These young men and young women are from Cherokee County, and it’s a great thrill for us to be able to have these young, bright, talented kids from the local high schools come over and take these classes. We know that many of them are going on to some of the best colleges in the state and in the region. That’s wonderful.”

Qualifications for Limestone’s Dual Enrollment Program
Limestone college’s Dual Enrollment program is intended to complement the high school experience and to provide personal enrichment by allowing students to begin exploring new subject areas and earn college credit. Students must have a 3.0 or better grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) and have completed their junior year of high school. Students must then complete the dual enrollment application, receive a signed recommendation from their guidance counselor or designated school official, and meet the required score on English and Math placement tests that the students take in February of their  junior year.