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This upcoming Friday, March 12 marks one year since the University of Michigan suspended all in-person classes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and transitioned the majority of academic activities to an online format. The same day, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced all Michigan high schools would be required to go online as well.
A year later, another class of high school seniors is struggling to sift through hours of virtual resources and campus tours to choose if, and where, they want to pursue postsecondary education. Yet a handful of high school students are getting a taste of the University’s undergraduate experience in a unique way — by participating in the “dual enrollment” program, which allows students to earn college credit if they have “exhausted” the courses offered at their high school in a particular subject area and have demonstrated high performance on standardized tests and AP exams.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily there has been a “modest increase” in the number of high school students who elected to dual enroll at the University this academic year. For the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters, 30 and 23 high school students dual enrolled in various University classes, respectively, compared to 18 and 17 students in the fall 2019 and winter 2020 semesters.
Once a student’s dual enrollment application is accepted, they can register for the classes they selected on the application during the first day of the term, provided there are still open seats available.
The cost of tuition for these students depends on the number of credit hours requested. Fitzgerald said for a four-credit course, tuition totals $2,843, which does not include additional costs associated with books or other class-specific materials. Though each high school covers a specific amount of this cost, determined by the Michigan Department of Education, the students are expected to individually pay for the remainder of their tuition and fees.
The Community Resource Program, however, allows high schoolers enrolled in Ann Arbor Public Schools with at least a 3.5 grade point average to receive high school credit for auditing a University class — without paying tuition — so long as the individual professor grants permission.
Students who choose to engage in University coursework through the program are still expected to attend lectures, participate in any associated discussions or lab components and complete any assignments and exams to receive high school credit.
When discussing the 67% increase in University dual enrollment from the fall 2019 to the fall 2020 semester, Christopher Kasper, a counselor at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, said he thinks the online environment might be more attractive to high school students with tight academic schedules, fewer transportation options or various extracurricular activities.
“It’s been nice this year in the sense that if a student did want to dual enroll, they could technically be a little bit more flexible with the timeframe,” Kasper said. “Usually there are some logistical parameters that are in effect where most of our students can’t take a … college class during the school day and they have to look to the late afternoon or the evening.”
On the other hand, Kasper said some students might be deterred from paying for virtual dual enrollment courses due to Zoom fatigue from their high school classes and the lack of on-campus experiences.
Kimberly You, a sophomore at Pioneer High School, is dual enrolled in MATH 285 and 217. You said with the virtual format, she has enjoyed continuing her mathematical education beyond what the high school curriculum traditionally offers without having to sacrifice any high school classes she wanted to take.
“It was easier to adjust my schedule since I can still take seven classes,” You said. “If I was still at Pioneer in-person, I could only take six classes because of the commute.”
Haakam Aujla, a senior at Bloomfield Hills High School, said though the University was his first choice for dual enrollment this year, he would likely not have been able to consider it as an option if classes were in-person because of the 45-minute commute.
Having previously taken other dual enrollment courses at local colleges, Aujla said his dual enrollment in the University for MATH 465 and 425 this year gives him an idea of what his freshman year might be like if he decides to accept his offer of admission to the University.
“The course I took first semester was difficult, but the professor was always open to answering questions and there were plenty of office hours, and the quality of education was great,” Aujla said. “I am not 100% committed right now, but I do see myself attending U of M.”
Aujla said the online environment has made him less concerned about how unforeseen events at high school or home might affect his attendance and academic performance.
“Dual enrollment is a big commitment, but it makes it easier to manage when it’s online because you can log in from anywhere and if you miss it, you can pretty much make up the class at any time,” Aujla said. “Right now, my professors post not only the lecture recordings, but also the slides that they have for the classes, which is helpful for studying.”
Elan Kluger, a junior at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, received high school credit for an introductory international studies course through the Community Resource Program during the fall 2020 semester and is currently participating in POLSCI 160, introduction to world politics.
While dual enrollment students most commonly participate in math or language courses, Kluger said he feels that CRP’s collaboration with the University supports attending classes for a wider variety of disciplines. Kluger said this year’s virtual education format was the biggest factor in his decision to pursue college courses as a high school student.
“I know from the past that people (in the program) had issues getting to class or had to have big holes in their schedule to drive to campus,” Kluger said. “My commute was switching Zoom calls. I don’t know if I would have been able to take the classes if they weren’t online.”
Kluger said his favorite part of last semester was how his peers in his discussion section assumed he was a college student until he told them otherwise. He said he enjoyed the genuine, intellectual conversations he had with University undergraduates and felt pleasantly challenged by the professor’s high expectations for the quality of his work.
“I think (these classes) are a great introduction to college,” Kluger said. “Taking a tour and that kind of thing can’t really show … what being a college really student means. I would certainly recommend (taking college classes) to other high schoolers to learn what college is and which schools are right for them. If you have the opportunity to take just one class, that’s a great tool.”
Daily Staff Reporter Roni Kane can be reached at email@example.com.
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