There are highly motivated students, and then there’s Jaselyn Riley.
The 17-year-old Alba-Golden senior isn’t just graduating from high school in May, she’s also receiving her associate’s degree from Tyler Junior College.
What prompted this burst of achievement? Apparently, it runs in the family.
“I always knew I wanted to take college courses in high school like my sister did,” Jaselyn said. “She graduated with her associate’s degree while she was in high school; but when we moved here from Wyoming last year, I wasn’t sure I would be able to.”
Enter Alba-Golden counselor Starla Bryant.
Bryant said Jaselyn started taking dual credit courses right away, then she wanted to take more than what the current law allowed.
Then came Texas House Bill 505, which, in a nutshell, eliminated the state’s education code rules restricting the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board from allowing qualifying high school students at any grade level to take an unlimited number of dual credit courses.
Problem solved, classes approved, and TJC degree set for May 2016.
“The law went into effect just when Jaselyn needed it,” said Dr. Tam Nannen, TJC assistant vice president for academic affairs.
TJC offers dual-credit courses at 20 area high schools and at one of its two Early College High Schools. More than 1,500 area students were enrolled in these courses in Fall 2015; and Early College High School students have programs of study designed to help them graduate with an associate’s degree and a high school diploma at the same time.
“While the Texas Education Code previously limited students to 15 hours per semester and required that dual credit students be classified as juniors or seniors, removal of the restrictions now means that highly motivated students can conceivably earn an associate degree even as they work toward their high school diploma,” Nannen said.
Research shows that students who enroll for dual credit in high school are more likely to complete a high school diploma.
To take it a step further, students who begin their associate’s degree in high school are more likely to complete a college program of study.
And even beyond that, students who complete an associate’s degree are more likely to complete a four-year degree.
Translating that into jobs and future earnings, students who complete a certificate or degree are more likely to be hired and less likely to become unemployed; and associate’s degree graduates will earn about $500,000 more over their lifetime than those with no post-high school degree or certificate.
Nannen adds that dual credit and Early College High School programs aren’t just designed to give students a jumpstart on a college degree, they’re also a bargain.
“The cost of a college degree has increased dramatically in recent years,” Nannen said, “and dual credit hours are typically less expensive for the student, thus decreasing the overall cost of a college degree.”
Is life on the fast track the right answer for all high school students?
No, but it seems to be a perfect fit for high achievers such as Jaselyn, who have their sights on finishing college in record time.
“As it stands, TJC and the counselors at our partner high schools have much more latitude to decide on an individual basis how many hours of college credit the student can take for optimum success,” Nannen said.
After two graduation ceremonies set for May, Jaselyn has no intention of slowing down. Next, she will focus on a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming, then medical school with an eye toward psychiatry.
For more on TJC’s dual credit program, go to www.tjc.edu/DualCredit.
Author: Elise Mullinix