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JENKINS: When choosing high school classes, why not pick college instead?

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

It's that time of year when high school students decide which classes they want to take next year. I know because my 15-year-old just asked me if he could switch to another math class. Apparently all the best-looking girls are in that one.

However, if your son or daughter is a rising senior taking gifted, honors or AP courses, you might not want to register him/her for any classes -- not at the high school, at least. You might just want to go ahead and sign him/her up for college.

I know. You're wondering, "Can I do that?" Yes, you can, through a surprisingly obscure program called dual enrollment, which enables qualified high school seniors, and even some juniors, to take college courses that count for both high school and college credit.

Dually enrolled students can take as little as a single course or as much as a full load (five classes). Some take classes at their high school, taught by a participating University System of Georgia institution, but most simply drive to a nearby college campus, where they mingle with regular college students. (Hey, I didn't say there were no drawbacks.)

The two best things about the program are 1) All the hours students earn transfer directly to other USG schools, without any loss of credit; and 2) The state basically pays for everything through its Accel program, an early form of HOPE.

I'm a dual enrollment veteran, from both sides of the trench. As a professor at Georgia Perimeter College I've taught hundreds of DE students over the years, including 20 in an English 1102 class at Alpharetta High School this semester. And as a parent, I've already seen my two older children benefit mightily from the program.

Both attended GPC during their senior years in high school, earning more than 30 credit hours apiece -- basically, an entire year. Both then transferred all their hours to private universities out of state, "beginning" college as sophomores. And all it cost me was a few hundred dollars for books.

I'm telling you this in my newspaper column because I think dual enrollment is one of the best deals in the history of mankind and because, for whatever reason, your high school probably won't tell you about it.

But if you're a parent, you and your teen have to decide what's best for you. Not every student is ready for college as a 12th-grader, but for those who are, DE presents an incredible opportunity.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in, check it out on GPC's Web site. Or on Georgia Gwinnett College's site. Both have outstanding programs -- GPC's is the largest in the state -- and either would be a good choice.

A bad choice might be allowing your teen to choose his/her classes, yet again, based on the likelihood of getting a date.

Rob Jenkins is associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. E-mail him at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.