Penn College NOW courses offered free to high school students

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s dual enrollment program for high school students, Penn College NOW, is launching extensive revisions for fall 2014, most notably eliminating tuition costs for participating students and expanding the number of course offerings.

Penn College NOW provides the opportunity for qualified high school students to take Penn College courses for both high school and college credit. The courses are taken at the high school or career and technology center during the regular high school day.

Changes in the program are designed to make college courses accessible to every student who is academically qualified. In addition to eliminating tuition for high school students – which in 2013-14 was $50 per credit – the program removes other potential obstacles to enrollment.

While the courses use the same textbooks that are used in the classes taught on Penn College’s campuses, the college requires schools to ensure that no student will be excluded if he or she cannot buy a textbook. Some schools have elected to budget for the cost of furnishing the textbooks, while some have partnered with industry groups in their communities, and others are raising funds for books through student clubs.

The program also prohibits excluding students based on “nonrelevant criteria,” such as class rank. Rather, to help ensure students will not struggle with the courses, participants must achieve college-level performance in reading and, if a course requires math, pass a Penn College mathematics placement test.

“We want every student who is qualified to take college courses to have the opportunity to take them without any barriers,” said Jeannette F. Carter, director of Penn College’s Outreach for K-12 Office, which administers Penn College NOW. “The only barrier should be a student’s ability to perform. Seventy percent of students should be able to take the courses.”

In addition to making Penn College NOW dual enrollment courses accessible to a higher percentage of students, the college will offer more courses and has partnered with more schools. In 2013-14, the college offered 36 courses in 18 technical and two academic disciplines. In 2014-15, the college plans to offer 59 courses in 22 technical and seven academic disciplines. New disciplines include automotive technology, business management, chemistry, English, health sciences and masonry.

To ensure the same rigor as the courses taught at Penn College, courses follow the same syllabi, and qualified secondary teachers are validated by Penn College faculty liaisons. High school students not only use the same college textbooks as those used on campus, but they also take the same final exam, which is graded by a Penn College faculty liaison.

At the end of a course – typically offered over a full school year rather than a semester – students receive a grade that is recorded on their college transcript. Credits earned may be transferred to other colleges, at the discretion of the receiving college.

Penn College NOW was initially offered to high schools in the 2005-06 school year, when 99 students took 431 credit hours. In 2013-14, 24 high schools and career and technology centers participated, with 352 students pursuing 1,545 credits. With the program’s revisions, the college’s Outreach for K-12 Office expects that in 2014-15, dual enrollment will be offered at 28 schools and career and technology centers, with 1,000 students enrolled in 3,500 credits.

The benefits for participants are many. In some secondary schools and some academic disciplines, students can earn up to 15 credits, which equals about a semester of freshman-level courses, for which a full-time Penn College student would have paid nearly $7,500 in 2013-14.

Even students who choose not to pursue an education in the field for which they’ve taken Penn College NOW courses can benefit by experiencing college-level workload and expectations, building confidence in their ability to pursue higher education.

Three-year averages show that Penn College students who took Penn College NOW courses before coming to campus were better prepared, averaging a better pass rate on placement tests than the freshman class overall. Those who have completed Penn College NOW courses also show a higher average grade-point average than the student body overall.

“I would hope that parents who have never included college plans in their hopes for their students would consider having their child try dual enrollment,” Carter said. “We can raise students’ expectations.”

Dual enrollment programs are encouraged by the federal government as forward-thinking initiatives to help students prepare for college and reduce student-loan debt. Industry has also shown support for Penn College NOW, recognizing the program’s value in educating potential future employees.

In 2013-14, six companies donated $133,000 to support Penn College NOW and SMART Girls, another Penn College program that helps girls explore careers in science and math, through the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.

Differing from many dual enrollment programs across the nation, Penn College NOW focuses primarily on technology-related education. It is one of 89 programs in the U.S. that have met the rigorous standards to earn accreditation by the National Association for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

NACEP works to ensure that college courses taught by high school teachers are as rigorous as courses offered on the sponsoring college campus. As the sole accrediting body for concurrent enrollment partnerships, NACEP helps these programs adhere to the highest standards so students experience a seamless transition to college.

Penn College NOW is partially funded by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act of 2006 through the Pennsylvania Department of Education and by Pennsylvania College of Technology.

To learn more about Penn College NOW dual enrollment, call 570-320-8003, email CareerEd@pct.edu or visit www.pct.edu/k12.

For more about the college, which is celebrating its centennial throughout 2014, visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Contacts: 
Last Updated May 28, 2014