Date: Mon, Jan 11th, 2021

Dual enrollment classes put Chouteau County students ahead

Katherine Bold, a senior at Big Sandy High School, says dual-enrollment classes have put her ahead. She plans to attend Carroll College with the goal of someday helping agriculture. Photo courtesy Katherine Bold

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Fort Benton High junior Timothy Lane is looking to finish his second year of school.

A little behind? Hardly.

The 16-year-old is on pace to finish his second year of college with almost all of his general education credits by the time he finishes high school in 2022.

In fact, he is taking five dual-enrollment classes a day this year. Lane takes high school classes from Fort Benton High teachers who are credentialed to teach for both high school and college credit. And, he takes online courses taught by faculty members at Great Falls College MSU and Flathead Valley Community College.

"I could get ahead with everything by taking it," he explained recently. "It's cheaper than going to college and taking it, so that's really nice. By the end of this year, I'm going to have basically all my general credits done, so that's just a really good head start. It's a great way of getting started in college without being there."

While remarkable, Lane is not alone.

Fellow Fort Benton student Abigail Clark and Big Sandy senior Katherine Bold are on similar paths as schools look for ways to get their students more well-rounded educations while saving them money down the road.

"There are various reasons we are pushing dual-enrollment classes," wrote Brian Miller, Fort Benton High principal, in an email. "One of which is to help provide for our students and their future. Taking dual-credit classes in high school greatly reduces their costs, and we want to help them with that. Another reason is because it creates a culture of academic excellence and prowess. Instead of juniors and seniors taking easier classes and coasting to the end, they are encouraged to continue moving upward in their academics, which only encourages a spirit and culture of excellence and greatness."

Shannon Marr, director of recruitment and enrollment at Great Falls College, is pleased so many students are taking advantage of dual-enrollment courses.

"Dual enrollment offers outstanding opportunities for students like Timothy, Abigail and Katherine to take classes that can fulfill general education requirements and save them money once they go to college," she said. "We have students from all over the region who are taking advantage of these opportunities and getting ahead in all modalities: online, in-person on our campus or on their high school campuses."

Through the One-Two-Free program, the first two classes for dual enrollment classes are free.

"Making it even more attractive is the Montana University System offers the first two classes to Montana high school students free of charge," Marr said. "And additional credits at Great Falls College are just $57 each, which is much less expensive than is typical."

Marr also pointed out dual-enrollment students are 16 percent more likely to return to college after their first year.

Core requirements

Lane has not completely settled on a plan for after high school, but he is leaning toward going to Montana State University-Northern in Havre and getting a bachelor's degree in diesel mechanics.

He said if he goes to Northern the only class he will need to take to fulfill the general education core is a technology class that is not available online.

"I would just say take it if you can because it's a great opportunity to get ahead at a much cheaper cost than if you were to actually do it at college, especially at Great Falls because you can take those faster 8-week courses," he said. "I love it ... I got so much more done."

Lane took an Intro to Business class online last semester in addition to anatomy and physiology, a math course and an English class through Great Falls College with faculty at Fort Benton High. He also is taking welding through Flathead Valley Community College.

This spring semester, he is taking Native American Cultures and Business Ethics online through Great Falls College.

Miller thinks it is a little unusual for a Class C school to have three educators -- Robert Truax, Wendy Truax and Jaylynn Meyers – who are credentialed to teach dual-enrollment classes.

"We are fortunate to have three-plus teachers who are certified to teach dual credit classes," he wrote, adding, "We offer only a few electives but have a variety of wants and needs from the students. Online classes allow us to still provide a small-town education with large-town opportunities. It's pretty great."

Gold medal performer

Clark, a senior three-sport standout for powerhouse Longhorn programs, is not exactly sure about her next steps after high school.

But the 18-year-old who will graduate high school with more than 20 college credits is planning to go out of state to study chemical engineering or go to Montana Tech in Butte to study metallurgical and materials engineering.

"A lot of the credits I have taken in high school transfer to the out of state schools I'm looking at," she said.

She particularly enjoys the dual-enrollment classes on Fort Benton's campus.

"I'm not a huge fan of online classes ... but I really like the on-campus dual enrollment classes on our campus," she said. "I'm taking biology and English."

She said the online classes through the college – including sociology, U.S. History and Interpersonal Communications – allowed her to get accustomed to following college syllabi and a college learning platform but she vastly preferred face-to-face classes.

Like Lane, Clark is excelling in her high school and college credits despite the full academic load and athletics. She also runs her own photography business, Abby Clark Photography.

Budding scientist

Bold, a senior at Big Sandy High, plans to attend Carroll College next year and study bio-chemistry and molecular biology, with the hopes of going into the science field with an emphasis in agricultural development.

"I was born and raised on the farm," she said. "And I love it."

She sees herself perhaps working with vaccines for animals or working on different spray and chemicals to help crop production.

At Big Sandy High, Bold said guidance counselor Chris Brumwell challenges students to take more difficult classes, including dual-enrollment courses.

"My school never offered psychology or any of those types of classes, and I thought it would be really interesting, so when I learned Great Falls (College) offered those classes, I thought it was a great opportunity while earning college and high school credit."

She has enjoyed all of her online classes, including psychology, enjoyment of music and interpersonal communications. She took all of them online through Great Falls College.

"My experience with all of my dual enrollment classes has been very, very positive," Bold said. "The teachers have been very easy to communicate with, they are fast replying to their emails, their courses are all straight forward and easy to follow, although they can be challenging, which is a good thing. I would recommend taking them to anyone else."

While they have been challenging, Bold said she has had no trouble keeping up.

"I've been doing very well in my classes, and if I ever have a problem, my teachers are right there to help me," she said. "I wouldn't change anything with the Great Falls College programs. They have all been great for me. I'd recommend anyone take them if they can. They are at a very reasonable price, and they allow the first two classes to be free (for dual-enrollment students) to introduce people to them."

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