In his first year at Purdue University, Mason McClure is ahead of the class.

While his friends at the West Lafayette campus have taken typical first-year general education classes, the 18-year-old has been able to jump ahead to classes that apply more to his major, which is mechanical engineering.

He has Brownstown Central High School’s dual credit program to thank for making that possible.

Through that program, he was able to take general education classes, such as English and communications, and earn college credits while in high school.

By the time he graduated in the spring, he said he had a little more than 60 college credits, which qualifies him as a college junior.

So in his first semester at Purdue, he has been able to invest more time into classes that he needs to graduate, including calculus and physics.

He said he recommends the dual credit program to Brownstown students for a couple of reasons.

“One, they are definitely the hardest classes that Brownstown has to offer, and taking the hardest classes, it really prepares you for going to the next level of college,” he said. “The success that I’ve experienced in the first semester at Purdue I can attribute only to the study habits and discipline that taking the dual credit classes allowed me to develop.”

Plus, all of the dual credit classes through Ivy Tech Community College are free. The only cost to students is if they choose to take one of the four German classes, which are offered through Vincennes University.

“Monetarily, it’s the wisest decision you can make, as well,” McClure said. “The free classes in high school are going to satisfy and completely eliminate requirements for you to take paid courses at a community college or a college or university. It prepares you better for the next phase of your education, as well as shorten the length and price of that next phase.”

Derrick Koch said he has been a guidance counselor at Brownstown for 16 years, and the dual credit program has been around at least that long.

At first, the classes only were offered through Vincennes. There were only a few classes, and they were $25 apiece.

About a dozen years ago, Ivy Tech jumped in and offered classes for free, so Brownstown took advantage. Ivy Tech also only offered a handful of classes at the beginning.

Now at Brownstown, students can pick from 27 classes — 23 through Ivy Tech and the four German classes through Vincennes.

Some of the Ivy Tech dual credit courses require students to pass an ACCUPLACER exam or have certain SAT, ACT or PSAT scores.

Brownstown also offers 14 Transfer General Education Core classes that are designed for students who plan to transfer their Ivy Tech credits to a four-year college or university.

Several Brownstown students are able to earn at least 30 credit hours in the core classes that transfer to any public postsecondary school in Indiana, Koch said.

The only core class not currently offered at Brownstown is speech, but some students have taken that through Ivy Tech at the Jackson County Learning Center in Seymour.

One of the core classes, World Civilization I, is being offered to freshmen for the first time. To qualify, freshmen have to pass ACCUPLACER and have a certain PSAT score.

This year, 24 of the 25 students who applied made it into the class, said Jami Stuckwisch, the other high school guidance counselor.

In the 2015-16 school year, Koch said 245 Brownstown students earned 897 Ivy Tech college credits. A credit hour at Ivy Tech costs about $131, so that’s more than $117,000 those students saved by not having to take those classes in college, Koch said.

If the Vincennes classes are added in, the number of college credits bumps up to 953, and the cost savings was around $128,000, Koch said.

Even with the Vincennes classes coming at a cost, Koch said $25 is “a steal.”

Read the full story in Saturday’s Tribune and online at tribtown.com.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.