Marshalltown Schools see uptick in students taking dual credit classes

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS - Marshalltown High School students Caroline Gassman and Gabe Wyant make trips to Marshalltown Community College throughout the week to take dual-credit courses.

While students at Marshalltown High School work for four years to get a high school diploma, it is becoming more and more common to see students pursuing a college degree before they graduate.

Whether a student wants a full associates degree prior to walking across the stage to pick up their high school diploma or just want a head start on credits, there are many opportunities for Marshalltown High School students to take dual-credit courses.

“The students are taking them as early as freshman year in our Project Lead the Way courses, then they have a chance to add some history,” said high school Principal Jacque Wyant.

Juniors and seniors also take many Marshalltown Community College dual-credit courses at the high school campus. Others must go to the college campus, especially if they are in a career technical program such as nursing or welding.

Dual-credit refers to students earning credit toward their diploma as well as college credit toward a degree.

CONTRIBUTED GRAPHIC- The dual credit trend is moving up in recent years at Marshalltown High School, according to this info shared by Principal Jacque Wyant earlier this week.

One major draw for students to take such classes is that the college credit is paid for by the school district. Marshalltown Schools Finance Director Paulette Newbold said the school district has $450,000 budgeted for dual-enrollment tuition for district students this school year. That’s up from $404,000 last school year.

Through the state’s Senior Year Plus program, the school district gets some of that money back. That is because students who take dual-credit classes can bring in more per-pupil funding to the school, and the extra funding is used as a reimbursement.

Newbold said that reimbursement came to $121,000 for this school year, about a quarter of the tuition costs budgeted. Last year, the reimbursement was $50,000, about one-eighth the budgeted tuition amount.

With such high costs for the school district, Wyant said it is important students recognize the importance of participating in the classes they choose to take. With that in mind, the school board approved changes to high school rules on dual-credit courses last school year.

Specifically, a student may drop a dual-credit college course within the first five days of the class without consequence. The consequence for dropping a class after the first five days is hefty.

“If our students drop that class in that scenario, barring any unforeseen circumstances … they will take an F on their high school transcript,” Wyant said.

That is because the college may not reimburse the school district for the cost of the credits the student was set to take.

Wyant said students who take and complete college coursework in high school are setting themselves up well for the future.

“When we think about Bobcat Ready and career-ready, we really want students to have some experiences before they get into the industry,” she said.

Wyant said the classes, as well as any job shadowing or training opportunities, allow students to discover a field they love, or maybe don’t love.

Students’ thoughts

Marshalltown High School students of all ages are taking advantage of dual-credit opportunities. Dual enrollment is higher this year than in any of the past five school years.

Senior Dru Dobbins is currently taking statistics and composition classes through Marshalltown Community College. He stays at the high school campus to take the classes.

“I think the comp class will for sure help me get some experience with college writing,” he said.

Dru said the free credits are a great thing, even if they classes are more challenging.

“If I’m able to take it here and they’re paying for it, I’m not really going to complain about the work,” he said.

Freshman Austin Christen said the challenges of the college-level coursework are a draw for him.

“They’re more challenging, which is more fun,” he said.

Austin plans to go into engineering at Iowa State University when he graduates high school. He hopes to get many math, science and English classes done before ever going to Ames in a few years.

Sophomore Uriel Campos-Padilla is another young student getting started on dual-credit courses. He is taking a biomedical Project Lead the Way class, as well as U.S. history and pre-calculus.

“They’re very rigorous so you have to learn time management skills,” he said. “I would say while you’re in high school, take advantage of every opportunity that you can.”

Senior Fatima Perez Negrete said she has aspirations to pursue a nutrition-related field at Iowa State. She is taking several classes, including in areas like nutrition, composition, psychology and calculus.

Fatima recommended younger students get into dual-credit classes.

“They’re definitely a little more work, but I think that’s good,” she said.

Junior Gabe Wyant is using dual enrollment to get ahead on computer engineering and has taken several classes in that area. Like other students, he said the lack of out-of-pocket college expenses is a plus.

Both Gabe and senior Caroline Gassman make trips to Marshalltown Community College during the week to take classes there.

“Currently I’m taking public speaking, but I’m also in dual-credit courses at the high school that go with MCC like statistics, Comp 1 and 2, I’ve taken calculus,” she said. “I just think it’s a great opportunity to get credits out of the way before college.”

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611

or asodders@timesrepublican.com