(Butler, PA) A 26-year-old Butler County Community College program that offers qualified high school sophomores through seniors the opportunity to earn reduced-cost, transferrable college credits has set records this fall in enrollment, in seats occupied and in credits pursued.
BC3’s College Within the High School program this fall enrolls 523 students.
The all-time high includes a record 57 students in an Early College Pioneers program on BC3’s main campus, a record 16 in a Riv-Ell Entrepreneurship program in Ellwood City and a sophomore who was 14 when his three-credit BC3 course in marketing began in August at Mars Area High School.
“I thought it would be cool to get the experience of what a college class was like,” said Joseph Shebek, the youngest of BC3’s College Within the High School students this fall.
BC3 leaders were not able to get the experience of what a college class was like when teenagers in their high schools.
“Absolutely not,” said James Frank, BC3’s interim assistant director of high school programs.
“Not even an option,” said added Amy Pignatore, BC3’s dean of admissions and the college’s registrar.
“The benefits are multiple”
BC3 College Within the High School students this fall also occupy 771 seats and are pursuing 2,199 credits.
Previous records were set in the spring semester for enrollment at 509, for seats occupied at 696 and for credits pursued at 2,034.
“The benefits,” Frank said, “are multiple. Getting a jump start on your college education. Doing it at your own high school. Earning credits at community college prices versus what you are going to pay elsewhere. For many of these students, it is going to save them debt. And we know right now that college debt is one of the hot topics that students are faced with.”
Tuition and fees this fall for a three-credit BC3 College Within the High School program course range from $420 to $444, depending on the county in which the high school is located.
The program this fall is offered at 14 high schools or learning centers in Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Clearfield, Jefferson, Lawrence and Mercer counties.
Among its 18 options are college algebra, college writing, general psychology, principles of sociology and the marketing course in which Shebek in August began to learn about concepts, decision-making, products, prices, places and promotions.
Shebek heard about BC3’s College Within the High School program from a Mars High guidance counselor and his parents “wanted me to try it out,” Shebek said.
“He is uncertain about what he wants to major in when he gets to college,” said Jamie Shebek, Joseph’s mother, “but he has been focusing on business. We thought that this would be a good opportunity for him to try a business-related course to see if that was something that he wanted to do.”
Added Ron Shebek, Joseph’s father: “If he realized through this class he doesn’t want to try marketing, I’d rather he understand that now rather than when he is in college and say, ‘This isn’t for me.’”
The course, Shebek said, “is going to help me down the road if I want to be in marketing” and has introduced him to “the amount of studying you need to do in college.
“We have to make sure we are keeping up or else we are not going to do well,” he said. “We do more work every day to cover more material in class. It helps my studying habits.”
“It’s a lot more affordable”
Seniors at Butler Senior High are pursuing 14 free transferrable college credits in a BC3 Early College Pioneers program funded by the Butler Area School District. They will take courses on BC3’s main campus through May in college study skills, college writing, financial literacy, microeconomics, research writing and speech.
Seniors at Lincoln and Riverside high schools are pursuing 16 free transferrable college credits in a Riv-Ell Entrepreneurship program funded by private contributions. They will take courses through May in the business plan, financial literacy, general psychology, introduction to entrepreneurship, marketing and speech; and field trips to Ellwood City area businesses.
The Riv-Ell Entrepreneurship program blends classroom learning with real-world experience and is available through a partnership among BC3, the Ellwood City Area Chamber of Commerce and Ellwood City area businesses.
Graduates earn a resume-building workplace certificate in entrepreneurship from BC3.
Shebek plays baseball for Mars High, is a member of the school’s German and Key clubs, and works up to 15 hours a week at a pizza shop.
“It feels good knowing I am getting ahead of schedule,” he said. “And it’s a lot more affordable. This class is under $500 and the credits in college would be thousands of dollars to pay for.”
In addition to Mars High and BC3’s main campus, BC3’s College Within the High School courses this fall are offered at Brockway, Butler, DuBois Central Catholic, Keystone, Lincoln, Portersville Christian, Reynolds, Seneca Valley and Union high schools; at the Lawrence County Career & Technical Center, Lenape Technical School and Summit Academy.
Courses deliver the same content as those instructed at a BC3 location. High school sophomores must have a 3.25 unweighted grade-point average; juniors, a 3.0 and seniors, a 2.75.