Photo Caption: Mallory Caypless, a 2022 graduate of SUSCC and Wadley High School, received her associate degree from SUSCC before walking across the stage to receive her high school diploma.
By: Katie Jackson
More and more area high school students are discovering they can get early starts on rewarding, well-paying careers without venturing too far from home thanks to Southern Union State Community College’s dual enrollment program.
Dual enrollment allows qualified students to take high school and college courses concurrently, providing opportunities for students to graduate from high school and get a jump on academic transfer courses while also working toward degrees or certificates in certain fields. Dual enrollment can also save students money by offering many courses at considerably less than four-year schools.
According to SUSCC Public Relations Director Shondae Brown, dual enrollment currently makes up 25-30 percent of all student enrollments across the Alabama Community College System and a growing percentage of Southern Union’s student enrollment.
“This fall, Southern Union had 498 dual enrollment students,” she said. “That’s approximately 11.3 percent of our total enrollment at the college and it’s a trend that continues to grow.”
That growth is attributed to a variety of factors including the reduction in time and cost of a college and technical education but also the success rates of dual enrollment students. For many, especially those from smaller high schools and towns, dual enrollment programs help ease their academic and social transition from high school to college.
That’s certainly been the case for Anna Kate Cantrell, a senior at Woodland High School in Randolph County who began dual enrollment classes as a sophomore in high school. Cantrell, who is taking classes both at her high school and on SUSCC’s Wadley campus, said the experience has not only advanced her classwork for college, it’s also given her insight into what to expect from college.
“I’m there (on the Wadley campus) all the time,” she said. “I’ve gained lots of friends and one thing I like about Southern Union is that everyone is a friend.”
“I’ve also gained a lot of knowledge and I’m getting experience in being in college,” she said. For Cantrell, the idea of going off to college was intimidating but easing into it this way has given her confidence and has helped her build a strong GPA. “I’m already in two honor societies,” she said.
Though Cantrell is still trying to decide whether she’ll pursue a degree in early elementary/special education or social work, she appreciated the fact that the dual enrollment program allows her to take courses that prepare her for either track. In addition, she is saving lots of money thanks to dual enrollment scholarships, and she hopes her strong GPA will help her qualify for future scholarships, too.
“The dual enrollment program is a great way to start planning your future,” she said.
Another advantage of the program is that it can be tailored to each student’s career interests, whether that’s academic or technical. Matt Caypless found out about dual enrollment during a parent-teacher conference at the start of his junior year at Wadley High School and immediately began taking HVAC classes along with other core classes.
When he graduated in from SUSCC 2017 with a certificate in HVAC technology, Matt went straight to work for Auburn University’s facilities management division and has since also started his own small business. “I would probably never have gone to school if it hadn’t been for the program,” he said. “I tell everyone I see if they are interested in going into heating and air or any other technical field, they should do it. It gets you ahead.”
Seeing Matt’s success, his sister, Mallory, also took advantage of the program though she took another career path—nursing. With the help of Matt and their mother, Tonya who teaches in Southern Union’s nursing department, Mallory mapped out her own path that began the summer before her tenth-grade year in high school. By taking classes concurrently at Southern Union and Wadley High, she graduated with her associate’s degree in nursing a week before she graduated high school and is now working on her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Auburn with hopes to go on for graduate degrees in the future.
“As these students illustrate, there are many paths to success through dual enrollment at Southern Union,” Brown said,” and now is the time to explore those routes.”
Registration for the Spring semester at Southern Union is going on now. Classes begin January 5, 2023. For more information, visit the college’s website at www.suscc.edu.