When Collins Nelson graduated from Northside High School a few weeks ago, she already had 25 college credits on her transcript.
Nelson earned the credits through a statewide dual enrollment program called Move On When Ready, which allowed her to take college courses at Columbus State University while still in high school. Her course load included college algebra, English, history, biology, communications and Spanish classes. The Move On When Ready program covered all expenses, including textbooks and additional fees.
“I like that they offer the program to students because it just gives you a chance to get ahead and it’s really smart, especially for people like me who aspire to get my doctorate and will be in school for a long time,” said Nelson, who plans to attend CSU in the fall as a psychology major. “It helps with getting ahead and not having to pay for some of it.”
Nelson, 17, is among hundreds of students in the Chattahoochee Valley taking advantage of the new program, which Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law in 2015. According to information on the Muscogee County School District website: “Move On When Ready is Georgia’s new dual enrollment program that allows high school students (ninth-12th grade) to earn college credit while working on their high school diploma. Move On When Ready replaces ACCEL, HOPE Grant for dual enrollment, and the previous Move On When Ready program.”
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In a July 2015 letter, the Georgia Alliance of Education Agency Heads introduced school districts to the new program, highlighting the following information:
▪ The state covers the cost of a dually-enrolled student’s post-secondary tuition, fees, and books. Students will only need to pay for course-related fees such as a welding mask for a welding course, for example.
▪ Post-secondary credits earned through dual enrollment do not count toward a student’s HOPE Grant or HOPE Scholarship caps.
▪ Students attending a Georgia public or private high school or a home-study program operated pursuant to law are eligible to participate in MOWR.
Keith M. Seifert, chief academic officer for the Muscogee County School District, said the district had a total of 985 students enrolled in Move On When Read classes during the 2015-2016 school year — 553 students in the first semester and 432 in the second.
“We are excited about how the MOWR (formerly Dual Enrollment) enrollment data has increased from the previous school years,” he wrote in an email to the Ledger-Enquirer. “This allows for students to earn dual credit for both high school and college. There is no tuition, mandatory fee or book cost to the student, which really enhances the opportunity for students to receive college credit and the potential to earn a college degree.”
John McElveen is CSU’s associate vice president for enrollment management. He said the university already has Move On When Ready partnerships with Harris County and Muscogee County school districts, as well as many private schools in the area, and is looking for more innovative ways to deliver and promote dual enrollment courses in the future.
McElveen said the program is the state’s response to a national concern that the United States is not producing enough post-secondary degrees to meet the demands of the future economy.
“Whether it’s with a technical degree or university degree, there’s a huge need out there; and in the coming years, they recognize, that we have to change how we’re doing things,” he said. “I think one of the rationales is that if we can get (a student) started early, who can meet the admission standards for it, and can handle college-level work even before they finish their high school graduation, then that student probably has an exponentially higher likelihood of finishing their college and university degree. So I think the state leaders see it as an investment in our economy eventually through higher education.”
Some of the courses are taught at the university, he said, and some at area high schools. Under the program, application fees are waived, and students gain access to the majority of core courses and university services.
“What we’re seeing is definitely more and more interest, not only from individual students, but also from high schools and even school systems in working with us to provide opportunities to these students to do college level work and do it early,” he said. “It was just five years ago that we had about 25 of these students, and we expect this fall that we’ll probably have well over 200 of these students enrolled in our university, possibly more.”
McElveen said the students are earning the credits, completing their high school diplomas, and about 50 or 60 who go through the CSU program remain to pursue four-year degrees. Most others transfer to other colleges and universities.
He said students interested in Move On When Ready can apply online for admission with the help of their guidance counselors. They must submit their high school transcript and SAT or ACT scores, which are evaluated to make sure they meet requirements.
Eligible students must complete a MOWR Program Participation Agreement as provided by the Georgia Student Finance Commission in order to participate in the program, according to the Muscogee County School District website. To participate, students also must sign an advisement form with their high school or home-study program, meet the admissions requirements at the post-secondary institution of their choice and make satisfactory academic progress.
At Columbus Technical College, administrators issued a news release touting the program.
“Thanks to the restructuring and simplification of Georgia’s high school initiative programs, hundreds of area young people have a huge head start on their future education,” it read. “Having this opportunity has proven a huge boon for parents and students alike. Students can complete entire programs and have a certification upon graduation or enroll in core classes like college English and/or Algebra, giving them an enormous advantage on their post-secondary careers.”
Columbus Tecg President Lorette M. Hoover said: “Move On When Ready is a phenomenal opportunity. During the fall and spring semester of this past academic year alone, our college provided nearly 1,100 high school students with the tools necessary to get a jump start on their future. This initiative just keeps getting bigger and better.”
The high school students receive college IDs and blend in with the rest of Columbus Tech students, according to the release. They have the option of remaining at their home high schools, where certified instructors teach college classes on site.
Kelli McPhaul is a 2015 Hardaway High School alumna who recently graduated from Columbus Tech’s certified nursing assistant program. She was able to complete the entire program while still in high school, giving her an advantage in the workplace.
“The dual enrollment program not only prepared me for college as a whole, it also prepared me for my current job at Northside Medical Center as a medical assistant,” McPhaul said. “Upon being hired I was recognized as the youngest employee within the company being picked for the job over someone twice my age. Without participating in the dual enrollment program, I may not have gotten the opportunity for the knowledge, work ethics or skills needed in order to be successful at my job and building a successful career.”