Stephanie Hart of Menallen Township, Pa., had 34 college credits when she graduated from Geibel Catholic Junior-Senior High School last year — enough that she had sophomore standing when she entered Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in the fall.
|Stephanie Hart with John and Donna Hart and Geibel Catholic High School principal Don Favero (right). Mary Seamans/The Catholic Accent
Having those credits will cut a year of time and tuition from her higher education, which pleased her parents, John and Donna Hart. Those savings, her father told their diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Accent, is nearly equal to the six years of tuition at Geibel.
Hart’s 34 credits were among the 453 college credits earned by students in the Class of 2012 at her alma mater. And at Central Catholic High School in Greensburg, 20 miles away, students in last year’s graduating class earned a total of 498 credits. Students at both schools participated in the Formation through Advanced Catholic Education and Scholarship (FACES) program developed in 2008 by the Diocese of Greensburg. It’s one of many programs across the country where Catholic colleges and universities partner with Catholic high schools (and also public schools) to offer students the opportunity to earn college credits as part of their high school curriculum.
In some programs, qualified high school teachers become adjunct instructors and teach approved college-level classes. Other programs bring students onto campus, offer online classes, or a combination of options. The most common courses are basics like English, history, biology, psychology, calculus, music and languages.
Students can take enough classes to cut a semester or two from college requirements, or use the credits to lighten their workloads.
It’s a win-win.
‘Forming for life’
“We have a vision for education to provide an excellent Catholic school environment for students, from toddler-two classes, through adulthood in post-secondary education,” said Trent D. Bocan, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Greensburg. “It’s part of our vision for ‘Forming for Life,’ so that by giving students access to local colleges and universities, they stay and really set up their lives as part of the Catholic community here, and whatever they do with their lives, they have a positive impact in the future.”
Trent Bocan, superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa., recently met with four students who took dual credits in the Formation Through Advanced Catholic Education and Scholarship, and who are about to graduate from college.
“It’s not just about the fact that the program gave them advanced status going into college, and that they went in with a rigorous education,” he said. “What struck me most was their outlooks. Each one had wonderful aspirations and they are just ready to (advance into) their futures, most into graduate programming. What struck me is how mature they are, and how forward thinking. Through this program, we are hoping to get students highly prepared and ready to go.”
The Diocese of Greensburg has agreements with four regional Catholic colleges and universities that offer scholarships and discounted tuition. St. Vincent College in Latrobe charges $65 per credit and a potential scholarship of $5,000 for up to four years, not stackable on competitive scholarships. Tuition regularly is $892 per credit.
LaRoche College in Pittsburgh charges FACES participants $200 per 3- or 4-credit course, compared with $525 per credit hour, and awards a one-time $2,000 scholarship. They also participate with other schools through the Scholar Credit Initiative Program.
Seton Hill University in Greensburg charges $220 per course (otherwise $2,200) for FACES students. It also has its own College In High School Program with 58 participating Catholic schools or public school districts, including the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and as far as Philadelphia and Arizona. According to Terrance DePasquale, dean of graduate and external programs, Seton Hill adds at least two more schools every year.
The majority of students take approved classes at their own schools, but public school students from the nearby Greensburg Salem High School are just minutes away from Seton Hill, so they can attend some classes on campus.
Transcripts and grades from dual credit programs are transferable to any college or university, and some students choose that option. But colleges may offer generous incentives to get those students to stay.
For instance, DePasquale said, “If students maintain a 3.0 (GPA) and take 12 to 23 Seton Hill credits in our College In High School program, they receive a $3,500 scholarship annually, which is stackable on top of anything else they would get. If they take 24 or more credits, they get $5,500 a year, which is considerable.”
And what’s in it for the colleges and universities?
“We want students to be successful no matter where they go, but it’s also a recruiting tool for us to get the best and the brightest and the most highly motivated students,” DePasquale said. “So when they are considering college, we hope they will consider Seton Hill.”
The Diocese of Greensburg also has an agreement with Mount Aloysius College in Cresson. Those dual enrollment participants pay $45 per credit and, according to admissions director Andrew Clouse, will receive at least $6,500 in scholarships over the years. Also, any graduate of a Catholic high school will automatically receive $1,000, even if they were not in dual enrollment.
Mount Aloysius additionally has dual enrollment agreements with its own Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and with public high schools in the region. Some local students are able to come on campus for classes.
“This is a way to introduce students to Catholic higher education,” Clouse said. “It’s part of our mission with the Sisters of Mercy to make more well-rounded individuals. That goes back to the sisters’ values and it’s something that cannot be replaced. And for the college, it certainly gets us out more in the area. It has really helped us to grow.”
Bonus for everyone
The University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., has an Achieving Credits Early Program with nearby Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers high schools, as well as with public schools. Next school year, regular tuition will be $2,295 for a three-credit hour class, whereas students from the two Catholic high schools will pay only $265 ($310 for public school students).
While some students take qualified courses in their own schools, most attend on campus. Jamie McGrath, executive director for enrollment services, said that being on campus is a bonus for participants and for the university.
“Students very much enjoy the college setting, and getting them into the classrooms is a good way for them to get a jump start and to make that transition,” he said. “They really get a feel of what it’s like to go to college. They also get to see how different it is from high school.”
McGrath notes another bonus:
“This helps students get to know us, and we get our reputation into the high schools,” he said. “They get a feel for what life is like at St. Francis. We’ve had some students who intended to go somewhere else, but because they came here, this became their first choice and this is where they ended up.”
Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.