BROWNSTOWN

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.

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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.

“Many of our students have to qualify with certain scores in order to earn college credit,” Koch said. “It’s not just guaranteed for them to get college credit, so they have to prove that they are college-ready in order to earn the credits.”

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.

“When you head off to college, many of the students have to have certain classes in their freshman year,” Koch said. “We’re talking about whether you’re engineering or nursing, you’re still going to take English, social studies, math, those kind of classes. Those are the core classes that we really try to focus on quite a bit at Brownstown Central High School.”

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.

“It’s a huge benefit to our students,” he said. “We have several students who are earning enough college credits to go as a senior in high school off to be a sophomore in college at this time.”

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.

“I think that speaks for our entire school system in getting the students prepared,” she said.

“They came prepared from the middle school,” Koch added.

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.”

“It’s making a tremendous impact on the years that they are spending in college and the money that they are saving,” Koch said. “Right now, our kids are saving a bunch of money and saving time in college.”

McClure said he took dual credit classes throughout his tenure at Brownstown.

He said he enrolled in those classes to earn college credits and help make the transition to college.

“It is really convenient because while you’re taking your dual credit classes, it’s not like you’re taking them solely for the purpose of dual credit,” he said. “It’s also helping you achieve your requirements toward your high school diploma.”

In his early years of high school, McClure said it wasn’t too difficult to balance the dual credit classes with a busy schedule outside of the classroom.

But during his junior and senior years, he took more advanced classes, so it became a little more difficult to balance.

As a senior, he spent half the day at Cummins Engine Co. for a school-to-work program, played tennis and fulfilled his duties for student council, math Academic Super Bowl team, tutoring club and other organizations.

“There were some long nights studying after work and my clubs and stuff,” he said. “It was a challenge to balance, but if you allot your time right, it’s certainly possible.”

Even though McClure is academically several years ahead of other freshmen at Purdue, he said he may still have to spend about four years in college because of the requirements of his major.

“When I came into Purdue this year, I was astonished in terms of how many credit hours I accumulated through high school dual credits,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

All of the dual credit classes are taught by Brownstown teachers. To qualify to teach an Ivy Tech dual credit class, teachers have to submit a transcript, and it has to be approved by a department chairperson.

Right now, 12 teachers are licensed to teach those classes.

In the coming years, though, Koch said a change to the credentialing requirements being proposed by Ivy Tech could affect Brownstown. If it passes, teachers would be required to have 18 credit hours on a master’s degree level in the area they are teaching.

Koch said he expects to learn more about that this month.

Principal Joe Sheffer said if the credentialing change goes into effect, they would work with teachers to ensure they receive what they need so no classes are dropped.

By the numbers

Brownstown Central High School dual credit program

23 classes offered through Ivy Tech Community College

4 classes offered through Vincennes University

3-5 credits could be earned per class

12 teachers are qualified to teach the Ivy Tech classes

14 Transfer General Education Core classes are offered through Ivy Tech

In the 2015-16 school year…

245 students earned college credits

953 college credits were earned through Ivy Tech and Vincennes

Around $128,000 was saved by those students not having to take those classes in college

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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.