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More Duluth high schoolers getting a jump on college credit

Getting a few college credits under their belt while still in high school has become a popular option for many students. Nearly 1,500 juniors and seniors in Duluth public high schools earned more than 5,000 college transfer credits during Spring ...

Getting a few college credits under their belt while still in high school has become a popular option for many students.

Nearly 1,500 juniors and seniors in Duluth public high schools earned more than 5,000 college transfer credits during Spring semester 2002.

"The numbers are growing tremendously," said Rex Hein, director of Curriculum, Assessment and Staff Development. "More and more of our students are earning college credit to prepare for life beyond high school graduation."

Programs such as College In the Schools and Post Secondary Education Options (PSEO) offer qualified junior and senior high school students an opportunity to earn college credit. To qualify, juniors must be in the top third of their class and seniors in the top half.

Courses range from calculus to foreign languages to physics, depending on which post-secondary institution the school district is partnering with at the time. The district has partnered with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the College of St. Scholastica, Lake Superior College and Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

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Some courses are taught by college instructors, while others are taught by high school teachers with a master's degree, under a college instructor's supervision .

The courses are free to students, and credits transfer to Minnesota state and community colleges and many universities.

"Students earn college credit, then apply for high school credit, so there's no duplication of effort. ... I think the more ways in which we can meet the needs of students the better off we'll be," Hein said, adding that students gain an academic advantage while their families benefit monetarily.

Ann Kucinski, a Central High School Spanish teacher, said students earning college credit for Spanish are taking a class that's equivalent to taking a class at UMD. Students study with a college textbook, for example.

"The rigor is more. It should be more strenuous," Kucinski said. "They get a taste of what college academic life would be like. And it gives a student a chance to test the waters without being penalized by paying for it."

Dillon Hodapp, a senior, is earning college credit in calculus at Central High School with math instructor John Hexum. Hodapp said the advantage of taking the course while in high school is the one-on-one time with teachers.

"You're not in an audience with 500 people. If you ask a question, it's answered right away. You don't have to wait," Hodapp said.

"You're pretty much on your own when you take calculus in college," Hexum said. By taking the course in high school, students and teachers can work out problems together.

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Andrew Salveson, a senior at Central High School who is also earning calculus college credit with Hexum, said most college majors require calculus, which involves difficult courses. He plans to major in an engineering field.

"It's good to get it out of the way," Salveson said. "It's money I don't have to shell out for college credit. Potentially, it's free education."

Advancing trend

The number of students taking advantage of a program allowing them to earn college credits in high school has grown over the past four school years. But the number of students doing so and the number of credits earned exploded last year.

School Year Students Credits

1997-98 114 343

1998-99 48 178

1999-00 98 199

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2000-01 109 435

2001-02 1,469 5,159

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