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River Falls students get jump on college credits

CVTC honored River Falls High School May 8 for its participation in the dual-credit program. In front, from left, Kayla Armstrong, Taylor Longsdorf, Danie Weishaar and Jackson Vanderwagen. Standing from left are RFHS accounting teacher Chris Silver, CVTC Vice President of Student Services Margo Keys and Vice President of Instruction Roger Stanford.

At the end of the school year, Kayla Armstrong will have a certificate that could help her in future employment.

She will also have credits toward a degree at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) -- both gained through one of her classes as a senior at River Falls High School.

Her classmate, Jackson Vanderwagen, plans to study accounting at UW-Milwaukee starting in fall, and the college-level Accounting II class he’s taking in high school provides great preparation.

Armstrong and Vanderwagen are just two of the hundreds of high school students in western Wisconsin benefitting from college-level classes through CVTC’s dual credit program.

Many of these students attend River Falls High School, which was recently recognized by CVTC for its outstanding participation and cooperation in the program.

In dual credit classes, known in academic circles as “transcripted credit,” high school students earn full credit directly from the technical college just as if the student took the class at the college.

“They get credit on their (CVTC) transcript right away. They don’t have to apply for it. That credit can transfer to a university too,” said CVTC Registrar Jessica Schwartz. “We are looking for ways to create pathways from high school to CVTC, and to their bachelor’s degree at a university.”

The CVTC credits transfer to universities, like UW-River Falls, with which CVTC has transfer agreements.

“It’s part of the lifelong learning and career pathways initiative going on in technical colleges and in education as a whole,” said Amy Mangin, who works out the agreements between CVTC and participating high schools.

Dual credit classes must meet college standards.

CVTC instructors and staff work closely with the high schools on the curriculum and instruction.

There must be a “100% competency match” between what is expected of a CVTC student and what is expected of the high school student, according to Schwartz.

Dual credit benefits students in many ways. Armstrong enrolled in a dual credit class in Foundations of Early Childhood Education, through which she can earn a certificate as an assistant child care teacher.

“I was thinking about going into early childhood education. I took Early Childhood Development before and I was really interested in it,” Armstrong said.

However, right now her choice is to attend CVTC in the Administrative Professional program. The Early Childhood Education credits will count toward the total credits she earns while at CVTC, potentially saving her time and money.

Schwartz noted that a popular dual credit class is Accounting I, a four-credit CVTC class. By taking the class tuition-free in high school, the students save $544 in tuition, plus $328 for books and materials.

Dual credit benefits students in career planning and college preparation as well. 

“High schools are looking at their programs of study and creating seamless transitions into higher education, or into careers,” said Mangin.

According to Margo Keys, CVTC student services vice president: “The more students are exposed to a college environment while in high school, the more likely they are to complete college.”

For the complete story, please see the May 29 print edition of the River Falls Journal.