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WJHS offers chance at KSU associate degree

Two-year degree and college credit courses options for students

By Brittany Fuller
Brittany.fuller@jessaminejournal.com
At West Jessamine High School, fourteen students are on track to graduate from high school while also getting a two-year associate’s degree from Kentucky State University, giving graduates a jump start toward a bachelor’s degree.
What started as a conversation between friends at KSU, Guidance Counselor Autumn McMillen and Curriculum Resource Administrator Marci Smith, said grew into a collaboration of how to work together to obtain student goals at both the high school and college level.
“Three years ago, we started having those conversations,” Smith said. “It takes a while to try and imagine what that looks like for kids in high school.”
Together, McMillen and Smith looked at what classes matched in high school with a college associates degree, so students could take dual credit classes.
“It was surprising how much overlap there was,” Smith said. “We were really surprised when we dug into it. There were very few classes that didn’t.”
Courses are offered for $162 per course, or $56 a credit hour. This totals $3,000 for an associate degree upon high school graduation.
Nathaniel Frank, a junior at WJHS said, “It has been really cool. Most of those classes don’t meet every single day. Most of the time in school days (there) is an extra study hour to work on what college kids usually have. The workload is not as crazy as I thought it would be.”
Upon graduation, students who participate in the program will be able to complete up to 60 hours of college credit which can be transferred to work toward a full degree. Although, some students are also on track to complete only 15-30 hours instead of the 60.
“We have kids that do want that wiggle room,” Smith said. “They are just not doing the full associate degrees, but they are all offered to them.”
Smith said the biggest issue the school is running into is the students who could benefit the most from the program are typically the ones who cannot afford to participate.
“Next step is where can we get scholarship money for those kids,” Smith said. “The big thing we are really working on as a school is how can this be more inclusive and get more kids in there with money not being an option.”
McMillen said at WJHS they are seeing a lot of positives from the program. For the most part, parents and students are eager to participate.
“All the kids have really been happy in the program and they are getting quality instruction from great teachers,” McMillen said. “It is an exciting opportunity and they realize they are the first group.”
Right now, Smith and McMillen said they are trying to work out a way in which the WJHS graduates who obtain their associate degree would be allowed to walk in the Kentucky State University graduation ceremony as well as the WJHS ceremony.
“I want to go to Western Kentucky University or the University of Kentucky. I can transfer, and it is good to save money taking most of those core classes in high school and not having to take them in college,” Frank said.
“This is giving kids the opportunity to feel really empowered,” McMillen said. “They can take college classes and they leave here knowing they are capable. We are really excited.”