Earning College Credits in High School
-West Mifflin Students Enrolled in Pitt Program-
By: Kristen Kelescheny
Fourteen West Mifflin High School students are finding out if they have what it takes to make it in college. They are enrolled in the College in High School Program through the University of Pitts-burgh. The students are enrolled as Pitt students, even receiving a Pitt ID. They are being taught chemistry by CHS-certified high school teacher, Mr. Justin Sickles, but then travel to Pitt throughout the school year for a lab experience. This is the oldest and largest program like this in the state and each year over 3,000 high school students take Pitt courses through CHS. This is the first year WMAHS students are participating in CHS. Mr. Sickles did some research to find out more about the program that was rumored to be on its way out. That was not the case. CHS has been around for 35 years and is gaining popularity according to Michael Giazzoni, CHS director. "Nationally the trend is that programs like ours (concurrent enrollment) are growing quickly. In many states, the state has come to understand the cost savings and student preparation benefits, and the state pays for the tuition." Although that is not the case at the moment in Pennsylvania, students are able to take this chemistry class and lab for $310 with some financial assistance available. Mr. Sickles says the cost savings is real. " The current in-state tuition is $737 per credit so that would make the chemistry class which is a four credit class a $2,948 course." But it isn't just the cost savings that appeals to students - it is also the greater likelihood of earning the college credits that will transfer. Students who take advanced placement classes have the opportunity to earn college credits but it hinges on the grade achieved on a rigorous final exam. Even if the student does well, there is no guarantee a college will accept the AP credits. If students earn a C or above in the CHS course, they will receive an official Pitt transcript. "This sounded like the safer option - less risk," explains junior Benjamin Moses. "Everybody in the class took this instead of AP." Mr. Sickles says in May the students will go to Pitt to take their final exam. For many kids this will be an eye opening experience because they will be in a lecture hall with hundreds of high school students from across the state. Often this is the case for college freshmen taking introductory classes, and can be overwhelming. "I think that will be a unique opportunity because you never get that in high school. Typically, it's 20 -30 students in your class and that's how you take exams. " Although the cost of the Pitt class can still be a hardship for high school students, Mr. Sickles hopes to get future participants planning ahead of time in order to allocate funds. He also would like to look into fundraising options to reduce the cost even more. So far West Mifflin students enrolled in the CHS program have been up to the challenge. Junior Madison Deacon says, "It's difficult at times but you are actually in the college labs, using the college tools that you would use if you were actually at Pitt and I like that aspect of it." Ms. Deacon adds, "The tests are very hard but that's college. If you are taking this now and you're struggling but not doing too bad, in the future when you take other college courses you're probably going to actually find them easier."