Best of Both Worlds (?)
When College Starts Before High School Ends
Santa Barbara City College offers a unique advantage to local high school students. With the increased competition to get into college, more and more high school students take advantage of the opportunities that community colleges can offer. Thanks to Santa Barbara City College, high school students can take college curriculum and receive the credit without paying for unit fees.
The first, and most popular, way to take college courses is through dual-enrollment – a city college class on a high school campus. Santa Barbara High counselor Melissa Perez reports that it is extremely rare for community colleges to offer this opportunity to high school students. Lucky for us in Santa Barbara, however, these classes are extremely popular and the process of taking a dual-enrollment course is simple. Prior to the start of a new semester, students have the chance to choose their new courses. Students are enrolled by choosing the course, showing up on the first day, and filling out two forms. Of course, the academic record of the student is taken into account, as are a few classes that require pre-requisites. As for the rigor of the class, material moves quickly and assignments are regular, but teachers tend to be flexible on deadlines and quality of the material. Dual-enrollment courses move slightly more slowly than actual on-campus courses.
Taking courses on the City College campus is slightly more difficult. Students must gain approval from their counselor, and may only take courses that are not offered at the high school campus, scheduling conflicts aside. Like dual-enrollment courses, students must buy their own textbooks and supplies. However, taking classes on-campus makes high school students equivalent to typical college students, including the purchase of testing material – such as scantrons, and blue books – and use of the library and free tutoring. The main advantage is that high school students do not have to pay unit fees. Included in the small enrollment and health fee is an unlimited bus pass on the MTD that can cover transportation.
My past city college professors have said that high school students tend to do better than actual city college students. The trend seems to hold true. According to Perez, students who take city college courses typically do very well in high school and are pursuing college courses to receive the credit. Also, these students are looking to explore beyond high school and are often academically prepared for the rigors of college. On the other hand, according to my city college political science professor, 30 percent of incoming SBCC freshmen take remedial courses. As a result, college courses may be at the appropriate level for both types of student.
My first experience with City College was a class that many high school students take: Spanish 101. Because of the high school language requirement, many students take an introductory City College language course that is equivalent to two years of the same class at high school. Since this is so common, almost half the students in my summer session class were high school students, with a few high-pitched boys still in junior high. The younger students actually dominated the classroom, volunteering answers and participating more than the older students. Being a majority in the classroom, the discomfort that can come with being on a campus intended for older people was not an issue.
Santa Barbara City College also offers a special program to students who are socially and mentally ready for the demands of college but still need to receive a high school diploma. Middle College is run through the La Cuesta High’s Independent Study Program. Students receive both high school and college credit for all courses worth 3.0 units or more, allowing students to return to their respective high schools for graduation. La Cuesta provides students with free books and materials for completion of high school courses, while students provide their own materials for college curriculum. Middle College students I know report being very happy with their decision, admitting that they did not fit into the high school social scene and appreciated the freedom and maturity of college. However, according to Perez, very few students join Middle College-roughly only two seniors per graduating class.
Santa Barbara City College offers these programs to acquaint high school students with the college system and to encourage them to pursue higher forms of education, said Perez. Thanks to city college’s programs, I, and many other local high school students, are more than prepared for the future.