Teens Earn High School Diplomas and Associate's Degrees
Sumter, SC (04/27/2017) — More than one-third of Americans have earned a postsecondary degree.
Few obtain one as a teenager. But when high school senior Noah Bittinger crosses the stage as Salutatorian at the Crestwood High School graduation, he will be a few months away from something most Americans dream of, an Associate's degree.
Bittinger and his 12 classmates are the first cohort of students who entered USC Sumter as high school sophomores and will complete high school with an Associate's degree that cost them little to nothing.
By August 2017 these 13 students will be two years ahead of most students entering college.
"The Early College program has been an interesting experience and one that I will never forget," Bittinger said. "Being able to graduate with my Associate's Degree is a huge accomplishment for me and my classmates."
Bittinger will receive the President's Scholarship to the University of South Carolina Palmetto College, which is awarded to a deserving high school senior during USC Sumter's Spring Commencement Exercises.
Young adults with two diplomas are outliers in programs allowing high school students to earn college credits, which operate under various names and formats. USC Sumter uses the name Early College.
According to the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, programs like the Early College program at USC Sumter are growing in number at about seven percent per year.
For the past two years, Bittinger and his classmates have attended classes at USC Sumter while maintaining their status as high school students. The students are required to carry the same work load as current USC Sumter students and are treated the same by professors.
The Early College students are immersed in the USC Sumter campus. In fact, unless they told anyone, they were assumed to be college students.
Bittinger is an example of what USC Sumter administrators hope to see from more students in the future.
"These students have performed very well during their time here at USC Sumter," said Executive Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Eric Reisenauer. "Our program has grown each year and is at capacity for the next academic year."
In addition to the Early College program, USC Sumter offers a Dual Enrollment program for students in area high schools. Dual Enrollment allows students to take college classes either on the USC Sumter campus or in their high school almost completely for free.
Of course Bittinger, like all of the Early College students, has worked hard to reach his own personal goals and make himself proud. But no one could be more proud than his mother, Melanie.
"Noah has benefitted (from early College) by meeting new people and having more opportunities provided to him like scholarships and employment," Ms. Bittinger said. "He will get a head start on his Bachelor's Degree and this affords him (the opportunity) to choose whatever college he would like to attend."
Both Bittinger and his mother appreciate the help and guidance from the USC Sumter faculty and staff while on this journey.
"It's an experience I will never forget," Bittinger said. "The helpfulness of the staff and teachers at the University, the student life possibilities, the Fire Ant Cafe, and the freedoms that you don't get at the high school, are definitely what made it a joy to be in the program."
For more information on the Early College or Dual Enrollment program, contact the Coordinator of Educational Partnerships, Vicki Singleton, at 803-938-3890 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.