Over the past decade, 3,086 students in the region have used the Pitt-Bradford's College in the High School program to earn college credit without leaving their schools.
The program, which was started in eight school districts during the 2005-06 school year, pairs high school teachers with a member of the of the Pitt-Bradford faculty to teach college courses in high school. Students earn college credit for the classes at a greatly reduced rate.
During its first year, the program served 43 students. During the current academic year, the program has 784 students enrolled in 25 school districts.
The teachers undergo training from their faculty partner and follow a Pitt-Bradford-approved syllabus. The content of a normal college semester is taught over the course of a full school year, and students take the same final exam as students on campus.
Teachers visit the campus for a day in the summer and faculty have a chance to learn about how high school students are being taught as well as the other way around.
What individual classes schools offer depends heavily on which teachers have the qualifications to teach the courses, but most often include basic college first-year courses such as pre-calculus, calculus, English composition, Spanish and government.
“This program really helps students fill their college general electives,” said Matt Splain, superintendent of Otto-Eldred School District, who was principal of Otto-Eldred High School at the time the program was launched.
Splain said that Otto-Eldred currently has teachers who themselves took advantage of College in the High School credits to make a college education more affordable. Currently, enrolled students pay $125 per class - less than a tenth of the price of an on-campus class.
Karen Jez, superintendent of Titusville Area School District, which has been a part of the program for two years, also emphasized that the program can make college more affordable for students. “It's very economical, and it's a way for our students to earn some college credits while taking courses that they have to take to go to college.”
Warren Area High School is also in its second year of the program. Principal Jeff Flickner likes that students do not have to travel off-site to take a college-level class. “The kids are still here getting their complete high school experience,” he said.
Not every student taking a College in the High School course chooses to enroll in the program to receive credit, but the rigor of the classwork still benefits them, said Karen Moses, a math teacher at Smethport Area High School who has taught for the program since close to the time when it began.
“Even if they don't sign up for the college credits, they benefit from the challenge,” she said.
Bringing the challenge of college to the high school classroom was exactly what Advisory Board members, parents and teachers had in mind when they advocated that Pitt-Bradford should start the program.
Dr. James L. Baldwin, vice president of enrollment services at Pitt-Bradford, said “They were concerned about the low college-going rates in the region. They contended that one reason for the low college-going rates is that students and their parents lack confidence in the ability of the students to succeed in college. They felt that early exposure to and success in college-level courses would develop in students and parents the confidence that the students could succeed.”
Splain agreed that the courses help students make a successful transition to college, “Making that jump to college is a huge step coming from a rural area like ours.”
Baldwin said, “Virtually every geographic region in the country provides opportunities of this kind to its intellectually motivated high school students. There was no such opportunity for most students in Pitt-Bradford's six county region before we started the program.”
High schools participating in the program are Austin Area, Bradford Area, Brookville Area, Cameron County, Cranberry Area, Coudersport, Eisenhower High School, Forest Area, Galeton Area, Johnsonburg Area, Kane Area, Northern Potter, Oil City Area, Oswayo Valley, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Ridgway Area, Rocky Grove, Sheffield, Smethport, St. Marys Area, Titusville, Warren Area and Youngsville.