SUBMITTED By ROSE GARRETT
SOUTHWESTERN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Castanna “Cassie” Miles has a busy calendar this May. She is preparing for two graduation ceremonies this month. Cassie is among the first class to graduate from the brand new state-of-the-art Cherokee High School. She also joins an elite group of young people who have earned an associate degree concurrent with high school graduation.
Cassie has worked hard throughout her high school years and has saved thousands of dollars in college expenses. She did it by enrolling in Southwestern Community College’s current enrollment program through which she earned a free two-year college degree while still in high school.
SCC president Cecil Groves remarked how participation in this unique program for high school students has helped students and their families save anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 on college tuition and fees. “It is a remarkable accomplishment to enroll at Southwestern Community College and complete a degree while still in high school. Cassie can be very proud of what she has achieved and the money she has saved,” Groves said.
According to Linda Dyke, SCC concurrent enrollment director, there are more than 600 students from Jackson, Macon and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary participating in the college-credit programs at the college.
Most eligible students take a college-level course or two as an elective part of their high school program. Still others will dual-enroll at SCC, taking classes after school, in the evening, on weekends or online.
“Most of our concurrent enrollment students take college/university transfer courses they can carry with them to the 16 UNC system universities and many private colleges within the state,” Dyke said. “Most see this as a way to complement their achievements while in high school and get a head start on their college work. Additionally, we have students who take courses in cosmetology, carpentry, automotive, computer and information systems, outdoor leadership and other programs here at SCC. There’s really something for everyone if the student has the desire.”
According to Gene Couch, vice president for instructional and student services at Southwestern, what’s most impressive is when students like Miles are not only completing their requirements for their high school diploma, but have earned enough credits to actually complete associate degrees at the same time. “These are extremely talented and motivated individuals,” said Couch. “They have really dedicated themselves to their coursework.”
Miles, a senior at Cherokee High School, intends to complete a degree in the medical field. She’s thinking about becoming a nurse or doctor after continuing her education at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she’s earned a full scholarship for the fall. Cassie plans to earn a master’s degree immediately after completing her bachelor’s degree. “Because I’m completing my associate’s degree now, I’ll likely finish my bachelor’s at age 20,” said Miles.
“I’d say that’s not too horrible of a problem to have,” Dyke said, laughing. “I advise students to take some college courses now. They will not only benefit from the quality college education available in their hometown environment, they will also build in flexibility for later on down the road. A current enrollment student like Cassie who continues to a four-year college or university will have the flexibility to take a lighter load some semester if needed, take time off for other pursuits, or complete a master’s degree at an earlier age.”
“I liked the idea of completing high school and my first two years of college at the same time,” Miles said. “And it sure doesn’t hurt that those first two years of college were free.”
“It’s a milestone for SCC current enrollment and Cherokee High School,” Dyke said. “Although this is our first dual graduate from Cherokee High School, I’m meeting more and more students who are interested in following in Cassie’s footsteps. With the continued support of the teachers and administrators at Cherokee High School, we hope to see more and more dual graduates in the very near future.”
For more information about SCC Concurrent Enrollment, phone 828.586.4091, ext. 394 or 800.447.4091 or visit the SCC website at www.southwesterncc.edu/collegeaccess/index.htm.