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Local students getting a head start on college

March 10, 2006|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A high school reform grant from the state is helping some local students graduate from high school with college credit at minimal cost to their parents.

The dual enrollment portion of Pennsylvania's Project 720 allows high school seniors to take college classes and receive credit for them for both high school and college.

Project 720 is named for the number of days a student spends in high school from the beginning of ninth grade to the end of 12th grade. Forty-one school districts participated during the 2004-05 school year.

The 2005-06 budget provides $4.7 million to increase the number of participating school districts to 80. With this expansion, nearly 20 percent of Pennsylvania school districts will be involved in Project 720, according to the program's Web site.

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Ed Rife, assistant principal at Greencastle-Antrim High School, said the school improvement team has added a fourth math credit for next year, and will be partnering with a college so students can earn college credit at the high school.

"There are lots of positive things (in the Project 720 grant)," Rife said. "We'll continue to look at curriculum and at professional development for our staff."

Under the dual enrollment portion of Project 720, high school juniors and seniors may attend one or two classes at a local college. This is the first year the tuition for those students was covered, Rife said.

"We've had dual enrollment for years, but this is the first semester the state paid the students' tuition," Rife said. Before, parents paid the tuition, which was several hundred dollars. "This is a great opportunity for the parents and the students; it's win-win no matter how you look at it," he added.

The help from the state has increased the number of Greencastle-Antrim students participating from 12 last semester to 50 this semester.

Students must take three major courses, Rife said, although he encourages them to take four, divided between the high school and Penn State Mont Alto.

Credit is given at both schools.

The grant pays tuition, fees and most of the cost of the textbooks. The parents or the student pay $50 toward books.

To enter the program, students must apply and be approved by Penn State and have a GPA and SAT scores of a certain level.

"The kids that are in it have done really well," Rife added. "It gives them a chance to experience college life and to earn credit. They can have a full year out of the way."

Cheryl Moroz, whose son, Jon, is taking sociology and American history courses at Mont Alto, said the program "is a wonderful chance for him to ease into college. We could not have done it financially without this program."

Jon, 18, a senior at Greencastle-Antrim, goes to Mont Alto three days a week for the history class and one evening a week for the sociology class. He plans to attend Shippensburg (Pa.) University next year.

Bailey Ocker, 17, also a senior at Greencastle-Antrim, is taking a 2 1/2-hour sociology class at Mont Alto once a week.

"It's an incredible experience," she said. "I can experience the work load and the college atmosphere and what the professors are going to be expecting of me."

Bailey would like to attend George Washington University in Washington, D.C., to major in business.

Amanda Ritchey, a 17-year-old Greencastle-Antrim junior, is taking speech and introduction to human development and family studies at Mont Alto. The latter met every day until the class ended in February.

"It was hard last semester because of the overlap," Amanda said. "Now I take two classes in high school, then go (to Mont Alto) twice a week. It's a different environment. I would love to do this again next year. It would have been difficult without the money. My sister (took dual enrollment and) paid full price. It's a lot nicer to only pay $50 for a book and still get the same experience."

She would like to attend Lebanon Valley College or Shippensburg University.

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