Crothersville seniors complete college-level program

Walking up to receive their diplomas Friday night was a piece of cake for three Crothersville High School seniors.

That’s because two weeks earlier, Megan Fisher, Kalynda Hoevener and Samantha Hurtt had walked across a stage to receive a diploma.

On May 12 at Columbus North High School, they participated in Ivy Tech Community College’s graduation after completing an associate degree program.

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Through the Austin Crothersville Early College Initiative, students at Crothersville and Austin high schools can take dual-credit courses at Austin taught by qualified high school teachers and professors with Ivy Tech Community College. They receive an associate degree in general studies after earning at least 60 credit hours.

The three are among 47 Crothersville students who have received degrees in the past six years. By doing so, they spend a year or two less and save between $30,000 and $40,000 in earning a higher college degree.

Another Crothersville senior, Alex VanCoutren, completed the Statewide Transfer General Education Core courses. He took the same courses as his three classmates this school year at Austin but was just short of earning enough credit hours for an associate degree.

Fisher, Hoevener and Hurtt said the graduation earlier this month was memorable.

“I thought it was cool because we were talking with the other people that did do Ivy Tech, people that were graduating, too, and we didn’t stand out like people thought we would. We were just with them,” Hoevener said.

“I was really nervous because there were so many people there,” Hurtt said.

“I found the whole situation kind of ironic,” Fisher said. “Everyone always talks about how everything feels and looks different after you get your diploma, but the only thing I felt was tired and thankful.”

Former Crothersville High School Principal David Schill helped create, design and develop the early college program. In the 2006-07 school year, the state began requiring high schools to offer some type of dual-credit program.

Schill and Superintendent Terry Goodin talked to Ivy Tech officials and felt it was the best program because it’s free for the students. The school pays an annual fee of about $14,000 to cover the costs of Ivy Tech professors, but the school board always has approved it because the members see the value in the program.

Crothersville and Ivy Tech officials decided an associate degree in general studies would work best because regardless of what a student studies in college, all of the dual-credit classes they took in high school would count for something at the next level.

The program began at Crothersville seven years ago, but those seniors couldn’t earn a degree. They only were able to earn some additional dual-credit courses to carry into college.

Since then, Crothersville and Austin students have been able to earn associate degrees.

The 2015-16 school year marked the first time sophomores could apply, giving students more time to earn their credits and not have to compact classes on top of their high school subjects.

Applications are accepted after the school year starts. Students then have to pass the language arts and math portions of Ivy Tech’s ACCUPLACER entrance exam. If a student passes just one section, he or she can still take college classes and earn credits but won’t receive a degree. Instead, they would receive a technical certificate.

This school year at Crothersville, 12 sophomores, 10 juniors and three seniors participated in the program.

Fisher, Hoevener and Hurtt all began taking courses their junior year.

“I think it’s beneficial because you get to save money, and then you get time off for college, so I won’t have to go as long. I just thought that was a good opportunity,” Hoevener said.

“I just wanted to graduate with my associate degree,” Hurtt said. “It’s pretty cool to say that I hadn’t graduated yet and I already had my associate degree.”

The fact that the classes were free drew Fisher’s attention.

“This meant that I would be getting an associate degree for zero dollars,” she said.

VanCoutren took four Advanced Placement classes during his sophomore and junior years at Brownstown Central High School. Then when he transferred to Crothersville, he learned the AP credits could be applied to the Ivy Tech program.

He took the same classes as the three girls. Classes were three days a week from 12:40 to 3 p.m.

“I’ll go into college and be considered a freshman because I don’t have an associate degree, but I won’t have to take those classes,” VanCoutren said. “It helped me mentally prepare for college knowing that I’m on my own. … I have to make sure I get my homework done and make sure I manage my own time.”

The three girls noticed a difference in the college-level courses.

“It was just a different setup because it’s more lecture. They are just talking most of the class, and that’s just different than what we’re used to,” Hoevener said.

“They did talk more the whole time, and they went over everything, and they expect us to soak it all in, and that was a little difficult,” Hurtt said.

“The amount of work that was given was definitely a step up from the normal high school level,” Fisher said. “I had to sacrifice more of my time and learn better time management to keep up with the workload.”

VanCoutren finished with more than 50 credit hours, while the three girls each had 60.

They all agreed other students at the school should take advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s free,” Fisher said. “Even though you’ll have to work really hard, it’s still free. It means less stress for my future mentally and financially, which in turn means a better standing for when I begin my career.”

Since not many schools offer this type of program, Hoevener encourages others at Crothersville to enroll.

“Some people come here just strictly for that because Crothersville offers that,” she said. “I just think it’s really neat and a great thing.”

Hurtt said it’s important for Crothersville to continue offering the program.

“I wouldn’t want to go to another school that doesn’t have that program,” she said. “It’s really difficult, and you have to work a lot harder than you normally would, but it’s worth it.”

VanCoutren recommends it to others, too.

“It gives you that chance to get ready for college knowing what to expect,” he said. “Then if you start at the right time like you’re supposed to, you can graduate from high school with an associate degree and go into college as a sophomore or junior and save yourself money. Even then, if you decide not to go to college and pursue a career, you have an associate degree, which is enough to get you into a job.”

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The three Crothersville High School seniors recently earning an associate degree in general studies from Ivy Tech Community College shared their postsecondary plans.

Kalynda Hoevener will head to Purdue University to major in agriculture education and communications.

Samantha Hurtt is undecided on where to go to college, but she wants to major in social work.

Megan Fisher will attend Herron School of Art and Design through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to work toward a bachelor’s degree in drawing and illustration.

Another Crothersville senior completed the Statewide Transfer General Education Core courses.

Alex VanCoutren is going to Indiana University Southeast to major in biology and chemistry and wants to go to dental school to become an oral surgeon.