NATCHITOCHES — Eighty-seven students from 15 Louisiana high schools have met Northwestern State University’s requirements for an associate’s degree in general studies by taking dual-enrollment courses. They will be officially eligible for degrees in August. By earning college credits in high school, students save time and money in pursuit of their bachelor’s degrees, which often extends their TOPS eligibility to apply for a master’s or other post-baccalaureate degree.
Dual-enrolled students receive credits on their high school and college transcripts for the same classes. The NSU began awarding associate degrees to eligible high school students in 2016.
Brianna Billiot, a recent graduate of Pickering High School, was among the students who earned the associate’s degree in general studies. She earned 63 hours and is already signed up for 12 hours when she begins as a full-time student at NSU this fall, classified as a junior computer information systems major.
In high school, Billiot earned college course credits in Chemistry, Fine Arts, Geography, Anthropology, Communications, Finance, Sociology, and University 1000 Freshman Seminar and earned multiple course credits in Psychology, Spanish, history, biology and mathematics.
“Taking dual enrollment classes in high school was, of course, more difficult than just taking classes in high school, but it wasn’t hard to balance the two,” Billiot said. “There were a lot of other dual enrollment students in my high school. The main advantage is an early start. With dual enrollment you can eliminate beginner courses and once you get to college you can go straight in and start working on your main courses.
Billiot hopes to complete his degree and pursue a career as a private entrepreneur and helping large corporations with their websites and online needs.
Ty Russell graduated magna cum laude from Pleasant Hill High School in May, also with an Associate’s degree in General Studies. Russell was part of the LA Gear Up initiative that pairs universities with high-poverty colleges and high schools in an effort to increase the number of low-income students ready to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.
“I’m often asked why I would want to stay at a small school, and I share how PHHS and LA Gear Up gave me the opportunity to experience great success by attending ADVANCE Camp twice at NSU and completing 60 hours of dual enrollment course,” said Russel. “Without these opportunities, the experiences and an associate’s degree would not have been possible. I am grateful for the positive impact LA Gear Up has had in setting me up for success. with an associate degree and starting NSU as a junior with zero debt and multiple scholarships.
Earlier this year, state education officials launched an initiative to expand access for high school students seeking college credit.
According to Steve Hicks, director of academic advising services at NSU, students are eligible to attend NSU’s December commencement ceremonies if they wish.
“NSU is a leader in dual enrollment, which has the advantage of introducing students not only to college-level work, but also to college-specific resources such as books and counselors,” Hicks said. “The affordability of high school juniors and seniors taking college courses is a significant benefit for many of our students.”
Vanner Erikson, acting director of enrollment and director of recruitment at NSU, said dual enrollment is a big factor in student retention.
“High school graduates who come to NSU as full-time students with two years of college coursework behind them already see the goal of a bachelor’s degree in sight, so they are usually highly motivated to complete the bachelor’s degree and continue for an advanced degree,” Erikson said.
“Each year we have seen an increase in the number of high school students eligible for associate degrees, from one student in 2016 when eligibility began to over 80 students now six years later. I am thrilled with the increased number of graduates and that students are taking advantage of this opportunity,” Hicks said. “These students have worked very hard and we are proud of them.
For more information on dual registration, contact Hicks at [email protected]