The Amarillo Pioneer

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Amarillo College Adds Bushland ISD, Canyon ISD to Degrees and Diplomas Program

"By earning an associate degree at Amarillo College while he was still in high school, Myles Smith was able to achieve his bachelor’s and master’s degrees by the age of 22 – saving considerable time and money along the way.

Smith is one of just 18 high-achieving high school students to have completed the Diplomas and Degrees Program since it was established at AC in 2009; however, the number of similar success stories soon may multiply.

AC is pleased to announce that it has reached formal agreements with two school districts – Bushland and Canyon – which will become participants in the program that invites exceptionally qualified dual credit students to pursue full general-studies associate degrees beginning in the ninth grade.

“The financial savings were significant,” said Smith, who recently accepted a job as student activities administrator at Texas Tech University. ”And getting a master’s degree just four years after high school, at 22, is amazing. Joining this program at AC was probably the best decision I could have made.”

Smith and three of his classmates at Highland Park High School enrolled in the program in 2009 as ninth-graders, and in 2013 they became AC’s inaugural Diplomas and Degrees graduates. The quartet participated in AC’s commencement on May 10, 2013, and three weeks later they officially graduated from Highland Park. Each then matriculated to a university, entering as juniors, with up to 60 credit hours in tow.

Diplomas and Degrees was conceived for particularly top-performing students in AC’s Dual Credit network, those who demonstrated the ability to read and write at the college level by the end of the eighth grade. But for these students to take advantage of Diplomas and Degrees, their school districts must formally opt in as partners of the initiative.

Up until now, the program’s only partners have been Highland Park and Amarillo Collegiate Academy, two schools that have combined to generate all 18 of AC’s Diplomas and Degrees completers to date – with several other students currently at various stages in the pipeline to completion.

“We are thrilled to have reached partnership agreements with Bushland for this fall and Canyon schools for the fall of 2018,” said Jason Norman, AC’s director of P-16 career pathways advisement and co-director of dual credit. “The benefits to those who qualify for Diplomas and Degrees are enormous.

“These students graduate from college faster, start their careers sooner and they do so at considerable savings. The cost of dual credit courses is as affordable as it gets – $50 a credit hour – and since they are still in high school, families are probably saving on two years of room and board, too. But the time saved is probably paramount,” he said. “You really cannot accurately place a value on a young person’s time.”

Approximately 40 of the 60 credit hours needed to graduate from AC are offered through the Dual Credit Program. Mainstream college courses, primarily electives, comprise the remaining hours needed for high school students to obtain a degree, and those are completed predominantly during summers at AC.

Diplomas and Degrees is a highly challenging, four-year commitment afforded only to those whose eighth-grade Texas Success Initiative (TSI) scores demonstrate college readiness. Applicants to the program also must be approved by both the College and their high school.

Smith said he sacrificed innumerable recreational hours so he could plow through both his high school and college coursework.

“There were so many times when my friends invited me to go do things and instead I stayed in and did homework,” Smith said. “But when I got to the university (West Texas A&M) as an 18-year-old junior, I found out that my time-management skills were pretty sharp. I was able to get fairly involved in campus life and still keep up with my studies.”

For more information about AC’s Dual Credit Program, including Diplomas and Degrees, please contact Jason Norman, co-director, at (806) 371-5214"

-Amarillo College, Joe Wyatt

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