Growing a school within a school

Ireland Rinker, who plans to become a nurse, is taking college writing this fall through Butler County Community College’s College Within the High School program. (Photo: BC3)

Butler County Community College’s (BC3) 23-year-old College Within the High School program, which gives sophomores through seniors the opportunity to earn transferrable college credits, has exceeded 500 students in a semester for the first time.

This fall, 507 students in the Pennsylvania college’s surrounding counties – almost 50 more students – are taking at least one BC3 course in subjects ranging from anatomy and physiology, to western civilization. The 617 seats occupied this fall are also the most in a semester since the program began in 1997.

“High school students are showing an interest in furthering their education,” said Erin Cioffi, BC3’s assistant director of high school programming, and they “are finally seeing the advantage of a community college and the cost of its tuition. They are saving a lot of money and getting a quality education with transferrable credits.”

Tuition and fees this fall for a three-credit course at five regional Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities range from $1,246 to $1,386 for in-state residents. Tuition and fees for a three-credit course for part-time students at regional state-related institutions’ branch campuses range from $1,495 to $1,819 for in-state residents.

Hundreds in savings

Tuition and fees this fall for a three-credit BC3 College Within the High School program course range from $384 to $414, depending on the county of the high school. BC3 high school programming credits can be applied toward BC3 associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees at public, private and online four-year colleges and universities.

Depending on the county, high school students can safe at least $850 to $880 on a three-credit course offered at the college.

“BC3 has given these kids an advantage,” said Ted Gross, who since 2009 has taught general psychology courses at the college to students at Mars Area High School, which this fall is also offering BC3 courses in business leadership, elementary statistics, microeconomics, productivity applications and speech.

“We never had as kids in school an educational advantage and also a major financial advantage,” said Gross. “When you look at some of the schools that these kids are going to go to, where a year will cost 35, 36, 40 thousand dollars, students can complete some of these credits for a cost that is less expensive.”

Christine Cataloni, a counselor at Union Area Middle-High School in Lawrence County, said BC3 “gives students the opportunity to earn college credits in a cost-effective manner,” and helps students to “develop time-management skills, explore different interests, take fewer classes in college and save money in the long run,” added Taryn Dobson, who instructs a BC3 general psychology course at Reynolds Junior-Senior High in Mercer County.

Ireland Rinker, who took BC3’s speech course last fall, is taking a college writing course this fall and will take a general psychology course next spring – all at Lincoln High in Ellwood City in Lawrence County. The senior plans to enroll next fall in a private four-year institution and pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“College is expensive, and the price of BC3’s classes is so reasonable (that I) can cut down on the overall price for college dramatically,” Rinker said.

Student Anthony Vargo took a microeconomics course last fall, a general psychology course last spring and is taking a elementary statistics course this fall – all at Mars High in Butler County. He plans to ultimately attend law school.

“This program appealed to me because, bottom-line, it is getting me ready for college. Taking college courses, it doesn’t get any better than that. … You can’t beat the price. I love it,” Vargo said.

Remote courses offered in spring

BC3 has announced it will offer seven courses through remote instruction as part of its spring 2021 College Within the High School program. Remote instruction includes video conferencing, email and internet-based learning management system formats. The college also will offer through remote instruction productivity applications, college writing, research writing, speech, intermediate algebra, college algebra and general psychology.

About the Author

William Foley
is coordinator of news and media content at Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania.