Katie Simpson, 20, remembered the long, fretful days that lead up to her admittance into the University of Florida. The trepidation of test scores and eligibility raced through her mind. How she compared to other students, she didn’t know. What she had no qualms about was the 40 college credit hours at her disposal following a year of dual enrollment at Santa Fe College.
Simpson is one of the students who participated in the dual enrollment program in Gainesville.
The city’s programs, found at Santa Fe College and the University of Florida, are a facet of an increasing trend in Florida. In 2015-2016, nearly 60,000 Florida high school students participated in dual enrollment programs, according to Florida Department of Education. That number increased from 49,000 in 2011-2012.
Jennifer Homard, director of high school dual enrollment at Santa Fe, attributes the 22 percent increase between 2015 and 2017 in dual-enrollment admissions to their affordability.
In summer 2015, the program hosted 747 students, she said. In fall 2017, there were 943 students.
“Local students can save money,” she said. “But they can also face the rigors of a college classroom.”
While dual enrollment isn’t new, it is a more affable pathway for local students to prepare for college. Students can take up to 60 credit hours of college classes that will count for college credit and high school graduation. Courses are selected to appease general education requirements, like biology or English.
Students are eligible to complete dual enrollment on college campuses or online if they meet the state’s requirements. These include a 3.0 unweighted GPA and college-sufficient ACT, SAT or PERT scores.
Students admitted to the program are also freed from textbook and tuition costs.
Simpson, who attended Santa Fe and transferred to the University of Florida, said she learned crucial time management skills in her classes. She also learned that the structure of a high school classroom isn’t like college.
“Some classes only have two essays as your semester grade. They might be 10 pages, or 2. In other classes, you might have one exam. High school isn’t set up like that,” she said.
The exposure to classes is also different. According to Sydney Lawton, 17, Buchholz High School student dual enrolled at Santa Fe College, college classes are more diverse than high school.
“I can branch out and take classes on animal behavior and biomed ethics,” she said. “I can pick and choose classes that will be important to what I want to study.”
Exposure to college environments is an asset for admissions to institutes of higher education, said Homard.
Dual enrollment has increased as higher institutions recognize it as a viable alternative to accelerated programs like Advanced Placement (AP) or Cambridge, she said.
The University of Florida admitted approximately 2,116 students with dual enrollment credits in summer/fall 2018, according to the UF office of admissions. This number increased from 1647 in Summer/fall 2017.
Given the interest in dual enrollment, UF opened its own accelerated-learning program.
According to Brian K. Marchman, director of UF’s Department of Distance & Continuing Education, the online program is designed to accommodate high school students who later want to get admitted to higher education institutions.
Students can earn up to 60 college credits that will go toward their degree. In some cases, students can graduate with an AA equivalent and transfer into a 4-year institution as a junior. For others, they may start at a sophomore or freshman status, depending on the number of credits they take.
UF’s program offers students an opportunity to receive free credits, is primarily online and expands beyond Gainesville, Marchman said. The university coordinates with rural and urban school districts like Levy, Orange, Dixie, and Flagler counties. Students in Alachua County can opt to take some approved college classes on campus.
Santa Fe’s program offers both online and on-campus classes to local students.
The popularity of UF’s program is quickly expanding. Approximately 1,200 high school students are currently enrolled in the program, Marchman said. In 2018-2019, that number is predicted to expand to 1,800 students based on school district demand.
Samantha Lynch, a sophomore sports management major at the University of Florida, took 9 college credits online while enrolled at St. Cloud High School in Orlando.
Though she participated in the dual enrollment program, she had to apply separately to get into the university.
“I knew admission wasn’t guaranteed, but the online program helped me to gain college credit I wouldn’t get otherwise,” she said.