Dual enrollment programs at Aiken Technical College and USC Aiken offer students who meet eligibility requirements opportunities to earn college credits while still in high school.

The programs also allow students to earn state credits needed for high school graduation and increasingly are a popular option for public, private and home-schooled students who want to get a head start on their college degrees and save money. The credits students earn while in high school can then transfer to two- and four-year colleges and universities.

“We're been actively growing our dual enrollment program at USC Aiken, and it has become a very popular option in Aiken County,” said Daniel j. Robb, the associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at USCA. “We've seen growth in public, private and home-schooled students.”

More juniors are choosing dual enrollment, too, Robb said.

“It used to be more of a senior year option, but we've definitely seen a transition where more juniors in addition to high school seniors are looking to enroll in dual enrollment courses,” he said.

Earning college credits while still in high school is one advantage of dual enrollment, Robb said.

“Those credits can transfer to pretty much anywhere, and students who choose to stay at USC Aiken have got a pretty big leg up because we've been working with them to meet our requirements already,” he said.

The cost of dual enrollment courses also is “very reasonable,” Robb said.

“USC Aiken offers a very favorable tuition rate, lower than our standard rate to students who are doing dual enrollment credits,” he said. “It's significant.”

Robb said USCA is eager to grow the dual enrollment program.

“We want to focus not only on our regular strong work with the Aiken County Public School District but also going out to a number of the private schools,” he said. “We think there's a lot of demand out there, and we're trying hard to meet all of the demands of all students, regardless of what school they attend in the county.”

Father Gregory Rogers, the dean of General Education and University Transfer at ATC, said reducing the cost of a college education is a major benefit of dual enrollment.

“First, in terms of cost, our tuition rates are pretty good, and there is a lot of financial aid available for students and lottery tuition assistance,” he said. “That will considerably reduce their cost for a college education. A lot of students are looking to minimize the amount of student loans they have.”

Rogers said students who engage in dual enrollment programs tend to be more successful when they get to college and graduate at higher rates.

“I think the experience helps students be aware of what they might face when they go to college whether they go to Clemson or USC or wherever they go,” he said “Also, it gives them a broader base of knowledge from which they can succeed in other areas.”

Dual enrollment courses offer advantages over advanced placement classes, which also allow students to earn college credits, Rogers said.

“The advantage of a dual enrollment class over an AP class is that there isn't that high-stakes exam at the end of the year where you either get the score and get the credit or you don't,” he said. “In a dual enrollment class, you get more opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge, and your grade is just like any other college class.”

Dual enrollment also shortens the time students spend in college, Rogers said.

“If you get 12 or 15 credits out of the way while you're still in high school, that's a whole semester,” he said. “I don't think there really is much of a down side.”

For specific eligibility requirements and more information about dual enrollment at ATC, visit www.atc.edu/Study/High-School-Programs/Early-Start. For specific eligibility requirements and more information about dual enrollment at USCA, visit www.usca.edu/admissions/apply/programs/dual-enrollment.

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.