Wayland partnership with local schools gives students extra edge

Just a scant decade ago, high school students wanting to achieve academically and prepare for college had few choices. A handful of Advanced Placement courses were available, which offered a standardized test that could mean credit toward university courses. But that was about it.

Students in the 21st Century, however, have more options for academic advancement. One of those involves a partnership between Plainview High School and Wayland Baptist University.

The program gives juniors and seniors at PHS the option to enroll concurrently at both the high school and as Wayland freshmen and take beginning-level courses. In many cases, they are able to received dual credit for the classes, meaning a freshman-level English course at Wayland can fulfill their requirement for senior English at PHS. Some students even enroll in courses for Wayland credit only, building up their college hours for graduation.

"Basically we are trying to give the kids the opportunity to earn as much college credit as they can while still in high school, because it's a time- and a money-saver later on," said Hope English, secondary advanced academic services coordinator for the Plainview Independent School District.

The partnership started in the 1998-99 school year, giving PHS students a chance to earn credits at Wayland for one-third of the regular tuition rate. Because of their support for advanced academic measures, the State of Texas picks up the tab for textbooks used by concurrent students.

English, who is an advocate for advanced programs such as the concurrent enrollment program, said the increased interest and response originated from the state level.

"Graduation requirements have changed in the past few years and there is now a distinguished achievement program (DAP) diploma," English explained. "Students need four advanced measures, which can be anything above and beyond high school level and anything evaluated externally. That's why AP or anything taken at Wayland applies.

"Now there is a standard where colleges can know that this student can be compared apples to apples (with other students) because they have those advanced measures. The colleges were excited about this."

Just like any other traditional Wayland student, the PHS students are required to formally apply to the university and must have already taken a standardized college entrance exam like the SAT or ACT. They receive an official Wayland transcript upon graduating from PHS, which can be used to continue at Wayland or to transfer. In either case, students have advanced themselves toward completing a college degree.

"It gives them a good opportunity to experience a college classroom and get dual credit, and gives them an early start to their college career," said Shawn Thomas, director of admissions at Wayland. "We really like the concurrent students. They're good students for us and we want to continue that relationship."

Students are limited to eight hours each full term at Wayland and must be approved by the high school and the university to enroll in classes. Information packets are available through the high school counselors.

As beneficial as some students have found the concurrent program, English admits it is not for every student. Typically, she said, students have to be more motivated and disciplined in order to get the college-level work done. But she said the program helps some ease into college life.

"If they don't start college in high school, it doesn't mean they won't be successful," she said. "We have lots of students who are cognitively ready to start college but they're not emotionally mature enough. This is a good way for those students who are motivated and committed academically to start college a year early but still do all those high school things they want to do."

English said some students who take advantage of the concurrent enrollment program do continue their education at Wayland, though they might previously have considered leaving their hometown for college. The reason why is also why she believes so strongly in the program.

"When they're exposed to those Wayland professors and the campus, they may decide to stay at home and come to Wayland," she said. "As good as the AP program is on national standards, the thing you can't beat about the Wayland experience is that there is nothing better than getting on the college campus and sitting down in a class with a college professor with other college kids from all over. They know what to expect in that first college paper and that first exam.

"It's a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful partnership."