For high school students, it pays to start college early.
Starting this school year, if students enter a dual enrollment program at Lanier Technical College, it won’t be on their dime. The college has recently announced that it will waive the difference in tuition cost for what the Hope Grant doesn’t cover.
“Hope only pays for about 71 percent of tuition and none of the fees, so that does become a barrier for many students,” said college presidentRay Perren, adding this decision would remove that barrier. “Dual enrollment programs have a tremendous track record across the state. In fact, somewhere in the 95 to 98 percent range of students who are in a dual enrollment program will graduate from high school, so we want to do anything we can to incent high school students to get involved.”
Perren said more than 200 students dual enroll at the college’s campuses in programs such as criminal justice, medical assistance, interior design and welding, among others. More than 50 of those students come from Forsyth County Schools, said Valery Hall, school system governance and career development coordinator.
While various high schools offer different career-focused programs, they’re not offered at all schools. Students at North Forsyth High School have access to a JROTC program, but if they want cosmetology, they can go to the Lanier Tech’s Dawson campus, Hall said.
“It just makes a lot of sense for us to help kids go ahead and get that dual enrollment credit and at the same time know they’re in a career technical program that’s related to their long-term goal.”
Forsyth’s high schools also participate in dual enrollment programs with other universities, including the University of North Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Perimeter College, but the partnership with Lanier Tech is career-based, not academic like the others.
For many students, Perren said, dual enrollment gives students an edge so they can enter their technical careers faster, with more hands-on experience. For others, it’s a chance to learn a particular career path might not be the right choice, Hall said.
“We have a lot of students that take criminal justice because they want to find out if they want to go to law school, or that they want to go into the police academy, and then find out when they get there that that’s definitely not what they want to do,” Hall said. “These hours don’t count against any kind of caps with their Hope, so that’s a big thing for parents, because if you change your mind in college, you’ve just wasted a lot of Hope hours ... but if they do it through dual enrollment, there’s no cap.”
Now with Lanier Tech waiving the fee, there’s even less risk for students. However, Perren said most students who take classes at the college end up entering that career, particularly in health care.
“Our programs are all hands on. They actually get to work with patients in clinical settings,” he said. “It allows students a greater opportunity to explore potential career fields.”
Waiving the fee is just one more way Forsyth students benefit from dual enrollment at Lanier Tech, Hall said. Already the school system provides the textbooks and, thanks to a partnership with United Way of Forsyth County, transportation.
“This is such big news for our community to know about because in the past, say for instance a student in the nursing program ... it cost the student about $300 out of pocket to cover the tuition,” Hall said. “Now there are really few barriers for a student to be able to participate in this as long as they meet the requirements for the Hope Grant.”