One college’s bump in dual enrollment

High school student Gavin Varner in a college writing class at Butler County Community College as part of the College Within the High School program. (Photo: BC3)

A Butler County Community College (BC3) dual-enrollment program this fall has set records in seat count and in BC3 credits pursued by high school sophomores through seniors across seven counties in western Pennsylvania.

The 654 seats occupied and 1,887 credits pursued in the fall 2021 semester are the most in the 24-year history of BC3’s College Within the High School program.

Seats occupied have increased 31.8% and credits pursued 28.1% compared to fall 2016, according to Sharla Anke, BC3’s assistant dean of institutional research and planning.

A statewide trend

BC3’s dual-enrollment increases mirror those among community colleges in Pennsylvania. During the 2019-20 academic year, 19,950 high school students were enrolled in Pennsylvania community college courses, an increase of 58% since 2009-2010, according to the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

“They’re saving time and they’re saving money,” Erin Cioffi said of BC3’s program, which enables students to earn affordable, transferrable college credits at their high school or learning center, or at a BC3 location.

“They’re getting a jump-start on their college career, and maybe into the field they think they want to enter,” said Cioffi, assistant director of BC3’s high school programming.

In their own words

BC3’s College Within the High School courses this fall include college algebra, computer information systems, general psychology, microeconomics and principles of sociology.

The college’s selection of 15 courses this fall has drawn nearly 470 sophomores through seniors from seven counties.

Lexis Holt, a Butler Area Senior High student, enrolled in BC3’s program “to receive some early college credits and get a head start on my college career.”

Butler High classmate Brianna Dittman wants “to be a step ahead of my peers,” and Gavin Varner, to “experience what a college class is like.”

“The education that the students are receiving through Butler County Community College is great,” said Tina Cafasso, a BC3 faculty member who teaches college writing to Holt, Dittman, Varner and to more than 39 other Butler High students on BC3’s main campus.

“And it’s definitely affordable. I guess you would say they get more bang for their buck.”

A low-cost option

Tuition and fees this fall for a three-credit BC3 College Within the High School program course range from $390 to $414, depending on the county in which the high school is located. Tuition and fees in the 2021-2022 academic year for a three-credit course at five regional Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities ranged from $1,311.69 to $1,398.60 for part-time, in-state residents. Tuition and fees in the 2021-2022 academic year for a three-credit course at state-related institutions’ regional branch campuses ranged from $1,516 to $1,839 for part-time, in-state residents.

BC3’s College Within the High School program is designed for college-bound high school students who have demonstrated a strong academic performance by the end of their freshman year. Sophomores must have a 3.25 grade point average, juniors a 3.0 and seniors a 2.75 to be eligible for the college’s program.

About the Author

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