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Franklin Regional students getting a jump on college courses

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

As the cost of higher education continues to rise, parents of high school students are on the lookout for ways to save money.

For the parents of nearly 150 students at Franklin Regional High School, those savings came through the school's “Dual Enrollment/College in High School” partnership with Westmoreland County Community College and LaRoche College.

The program gives students the opportunity to take college-level classes on and off the Franklin Regional campus.

Through the partnership, they can earn an entire semester of college credits for about $700.

Senior Brooke Hyland was one of several students who spoke with the Franklin Regional school board recently about the program. Hyland estimated she will graduate high school with 26 college credits.

Senior Abby Wilkinson has plans to attend nursing school after graduation and opted for the program to help clear out her freshman schedule.

“I'm going to be busy a lot my first few semesters,” she said. “I thought this would give me less ‘busy work' and more time to focus on nursing.”

The program emphasizes the entry-level courses required of many college freshmen. Wilkinson attends Westmoreland County Community College to take philosophy, sociology, history and psychology courses. Next semester, she will take a college zoology course that is taught at Franklin Regional.

“I like the freedom of studying on my own and getting my credits done, instead of having a strict curriculum,” she said. “Some of the work is really tough compared to high school — I'm not actually in college yet.”

Wilkinson's mother, Sheila, said she's seen a change in Abby's study habits since her enrollment.

“An English teacher (in the regular high school course) had the students taking college-style notes, and because of the dual-enrollment classes, she was much more used to the faster pace,” her mother said.

All juniors and seniors are eligible for the program, according to Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac, who estimated that about 250 students each year have participated, which is about 42 percent of those eligible.

While enrolling in the program doesn't necessarily mean Wilkinson is on track for early college graduation, she said it will help lighten her course load for the first few semesters.

“I think it's preparing me a lot, honestly,” she said.

Patrick Varine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2862 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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