Education feature: Dual enrollment program credits students

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Jarrel Tapper, 17, welds in an agriculture mechanics class at Clovis High School. Tapper, along with 16 of his classmates, is earning three free college credit hours from Eastern New Mexico University.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Free is good.

But when it’s college credit that’s free, there’s often an added bonus.

Eastern New Mexico University distance education assistant Rebbecca Gossett said students who begin racking up college credit in high school are more likely to go on to college than those who don’t.

And that’s why the university is now offering students free college credit in a partnership with local high schools.

ENMU has entered into a dual-enrollment agreement with 39 schools and school systems in the state. The state-mandated program allows students college credit for approved classes taught at their high school.

The program also offers free dual-credit for on-line, ENMU campus and video conferencing courses. ENMU and Clovis High School have operated under the agreement for two years.

“This a great advantage for high school students. They’ll be ahead when they graduate. They can take as many dual-credit courses as their counselor will allow, meaning they could start college a whole semester ahead,” Gossett said.

Though the free courses are all introductory classes, ENMU talked to each school about what classes they were interested in offering their students.

“Agriculture classes (were) a big initiative for Eastern,” Gossett said. “We went out into the schools and asked the ag teachers if they were interested in teaching sets of four classes we wanted students to have.”

The courses taught in high school, using ENMU approved cirriculum, range from music theory to beginning acting to ag mechanics.

Clovis ag teacher Edwin Ford said he has 17 students in his third ag mechanics class who are working towards three free college credit hours this semester.

“We’re real happy with Eastern for setting this up,” he said. “I think there’s a big push state-wide and nationally to help kids get a foot in the door at college.”

Ford said the course is an all-around metal shop class and the students work on large projects such as a tractor-pulled scraper.

“It helps a kid to have something to start with and it might even help them go on and get in school and finish a degree,” he said.

One of Ford’s students, Michael Garza, said he’s made plans for after high school. Garza is enlisted in the Army. But he knows he’ll want to go to college after serving his time.

“It’s a head start when I do go to college after the Army,” the senior said.

Garza, 18, said he hopes to study engineering and the math used in the ag mechanics class will help him in his future career.

Clovis Community College has offered a similar program for several years.