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Dual credit courses allow Turlock Christian students to get ahead

POSTED August 11, 2017 7:57 p.m.

Students at Turlock Christian High School will be able to get a jumpstart on their college educations this year, thanks to a new variety of dual credit courses that will be taught on campus.

In conjunction with Concordia University Irvine, TCHS now offers five classes straight from CUI that will allow students to earn college credit at a reduced cost before graduating high school. Two science courses (Principles of Biology and General Chemistry), two English courses (Experiences in Writing and Introduction to Literature) and one math course (Introduction to Statistics) will be taught by TCHS instructors at the high school, setting the school apart from other similar programs which feature dual credit courses that can only be taken online.

TCHS Principal David Schnurstein, who is entering his second year at the school, was inspired to bring dual credit opportunities to his students after taking part in a similar program while working in Illinois. The caliber of teachers at TCHS has made it possible, he said, as those who will be teaching the dual credit courses have above average qualifications and experience.

Combined, the instructors for the courses boast a PhD in Biology, a master’s degree in Biostatistics and a Masters in Literature, as well as experience teaching at University of California, Los Angeles, Wake Forest University, Merced College and Modesto Junior College.

Dr. Natasha Gebhart (Biology), Suzie Baba (Chemistry), Katie Garcia (Statistics) and Merri Strand (Literature) will be teaching the courses.

“Because of their abilities and their degrees, Concordia has agreed to take them on as adjunct instructors,” said Schnurstein. “The quality of our faculty is really what has allowed us to do this. Without them, we have no program.”

Though the courses being offered are from the CUI general education track, other colleges including Pepperdine University, Point Loma Nazarene University, UCLA and University of Southern California have agreed to accept the credits as well.

According to Schnurstein, about 75 percent of TCHS graduates attend a four-year college after graduating, while an additional 25 percent go on to a two-year college. If a student were to take all five dual credit courses offered at TCHS during their high school career, they would enter college with 17 credits already completed. A full-time student typically takes between 12 to 15 credits per semester.

“College is expensive, and this will certainly add up if you only have to pay for seven semesters as opposed to eight,” said Schnurstein.

In addition to saving students and their parents money, dual credit courses at TCHS will also prepare those enrolled for the rigors of college classes.

“One thing that colleges look for is what classes students took in order to prove that they can handle the rigors of what college is going to be handing them,” said Schnurstein. “When they see on the transcript that a student was successful at these courses, it goes a long way in showing that they’re ready for what colleges are going to be dishing out to them.”

Each course follows a syllabus that is also used by professors at CUI, and costs $90 per credit hour. The courses are a preferable alternative to Advanced Placement classes, added Schnurstein, since if a student passes the class, he or she automatically receives credit. In AP courses, a test must be taken and passed at the end of semester in order to receive credit, regardless of the letter grade a student received in the class.

“AP classes are like going to Vegas and putting all of your money down on one number,” said Schnurstein. “If you don’t pass that test, you don’t get to go back and say, ‘Hey, can I try that again?”

“This way, our kids automatically get the credit just by taking and passing the class.”

Schnurstein pointed out that the dual credit courses also allow students to take general education college classes while they still remember the content. For example, if a student takes Chemistry during his or her sophomore year of high school, that student can then take General Chemistry during junior year while the information is still fresh. This will help students avoid the hassle of taking general education Chemistry courses in college years after their first Chemistry course, said Schnurstein.

“You get that course knocked out, and now you don’t have to wait three years and see what you remember when you get to college,” he said.

Schnurstein hopes that offering dual credit courses at TCHS will increase the number of students who attend a four-year college well past 75 percent.

“We’re excited about this program,” he said. “I’ve seen it work while in Illinois and it worked well, so I think this will work here.”

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