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Renaissance Students Graduate with 96 Associate Degrees from ISU
May 15, 2017 – Ninety-six students attending Renaissance High School walked the graduation stage last week with their associate of arts degrees in general studies from Idaho State University (ISU). This is the largest group of Renaissance students to earn their associate degrees while attending high school, a program that has grown exponentially since its inception in 2013.
“These students are prepared for higher level college classes and the rigor those provide. They are also prepared to start taking classes within their chosen major as opposed to taking general education requirements,” Renaissance Principal Shana Hawkins shared of the benefits afforded students. “Our graduates report that they have been chosen to do research with professors, have earned internships and other opportunities because they stand out as exceptional students even though they are often younger than their peers.”
West Ada School District and ISU formed a partnership in 2013 for students attending Renaissance to concurrently study for their associate degree while attending high school classes. The first graduating class earned eight associate of arts degrees, and the program has grown exponentially since then.
“Our students and parents see the benefit financially and academically to starting college with two years already completed,” Hawkins explained. “The cost of the college credit in the past prohibited some families from participating, but with the new advanced opportunities funds the majority of the cost is covered.”
Students like Samantha Stephens, Renaissance senior and recent graduate of the ISU associate degree program, looked into the future when committing to this intensive course load. Desiring a career in nursing, Stephens knew she would need a solid undergraduate foundation prior to applying for nursing school. An added benefit to the concurrent classes she took was earning her certified nursing assistant license, meaning she could work in the medical field while earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“College level courses are definitely not for everyone, and I have to say there were times during some online summer classes where I struggled,” Stephens shared. “For me, these classes are not only a push they are also a different way of approaching learning. My classes consisted more of discussion based lectures and academic writing. I learned so much over the past four years, I feel well prepared to leave this high school campus, and walk onto a new one this fall.”
Each college credit costs $65 for West Ada students, a huge savings compared to the $200-$400 cost per credit at a state university. With the Fast Forward program, Idaho gives public school students $4,125 to use in middle and high school toward advanced opportunities such as concurrent credit and advanced placement exams.
ISU’s associate of arts degree program is 60 credits. Concurrent credits are also offered through Boise State University, College of Southern Idaho, College of Western Idaho and Northwest Nazarene University.
Eagle High School launched an associate degree program last August.