NEWCASTLE – When it comes down to it obtaining a degree in higher education is all about financial security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a person with an associates degree earns on average nearly $7,000 more a year than someone with just a high school diploma. On the flip side, someone who earns a bachelor’s degree graduates with an average of $30,000 of student loan debt.
Community colleges who offer dual credit have changed the game. A perfect example of that is what’s going on at Newcastle High School.
“It has been a big push here to get as many college credits as you can while you’re here to save money when you go to college,” said Newcastle superintendent Gordon Grubbs. “It’s all about expenses. You can go into college as a sophomore or junior and you have saved $20,000 to $40,000 in my mind.”
Dual credit has allowed high school students to earn college credit while still in high school. A student who achieves an AA Degree will enter college for the first time as a junior saving two years’ worth of tuition. That is exactly what Gage Bozeman, Gracie Carr, Kiley Mays, Emma Ray, Gracie Payne and Kathleen Shields of Newcastle will accomplish. All six of them are on pace graduate from Ranger College on May 4 with an associate’s degree in science, before they earn their high school diplomas.
“They are just all around great kids, great students and work hard at everything they do,” said Newcastle counselor Nicky King. “They came to me and asked if it was possible to graduate with their associate’s degree. So, we worked up a plan where they took about 80 percent of their classes on our campus with our teachers. We just followed our plan, which included them taking extra classes including over the summer.”
What makes this story different is that Newcastle will only have 15 students graduate and six of them will graduate from RC prior to their final day as a high school student.
“First off it was awesome it saved me a lot of money being able to take classes in high school,” said Bozeman. “It will cut down on the number of years I have to be in college and got me prepared for the workload of college when I’m out there in the real world and not in my mom’s house.”
Bozeman plans to attend Angelo State University where he wants to major in mathematics and after earning his masters he wants to coach and teach.
Mays wants to attend Midwestern State University and go into the dental hygiene program.
“Taking harder classes has helped prepare me for the tougher classes of college,” said Mays. “I will only have to be in college for three years and that will save me a lot of money.”
Carr is hoping to attend Texas Tech University and wants to major in agriculture and business.
“You have to make sure you are responsible enough to do it,” said Carr. “You have to put in a lot of work, but I feel like I will be ahead of other people taking the hours here because I know what to look for from professors and college classes.”
Payne is just as prepared as her classmates but isn’t quite sure what she wants to with her mathematics degree teach or become an accountant.
“Taking college classes has really helped me learn how to delegate my time better,” said Payne. “I have learned how to work on deadline and got to work with my teachers on a one-on-one basis and it really helped me.”
Ray wants to work in international sales for a computer company and plans to get there by graduating from Oklahoma State University.
“It has given me a leg up where I will graduate college sooner and when I’m younger,” said Ray. “I will be able to get a master’s degree sooner, which will make me more appealing to employer’s because I have accomplished so much at a younger age.”
Shields wants to be a nurse and plans on attending Tarleton State University.
“I learned that it was a lot of work,” said Shields. “But being in high school I saved a lot of money and time in the future.”
There are 74 high school students on schedule to graduate from Ranger College on May 4, that would be the most RC has ever had and would bring the total number to 184.