BLUFFTON EXPANDING DUAL-ENROLLMENT OPTIONS WITH MENNONITE SCHOOLS
Bluffton University is expanding an academic option that enables high school students to earn Bluffton credit by completing Bluffton courses—without leaving their high school.
The university is working with three Mennonite high schools to enhance its dual-enrollment course offerings. Dual-enrollment courses are approved college courses taught by teachers at the high schools. They also give Bluffton the opportunity to connect with promising prospective students.
Bluffton has offered an English literature class at Central Christian High School in Kidron, Ohio, this academic year and is adding classes next fall in accounting, technology and mathematics. Classes are also planned for next year at Bethany Christian High School in Goshen, Ind., in ceramics and psychology. Other possibilities are under consideration at both schools and at Lake Center Christian School in Hartville, Ohio, where two, semester-length American history courses have been offered this year.
The university also offers dual-enrollment courses at nearby public high schools, but Mennonite schools have been approached as well in an effort to enhance their students’ interest in Bluffton. "We hope we will develop a good relationship with the schools and the students so Bluffton will be an option for them," says Dr. Gayle Trollinger, associate dean of academic affairs.
"We consider it a service to the church, too," she adds, noting that the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) has spearheaded a move for Mennonite institutions to offer classes at Mennonite high schools. "We want to be known for select programming of dual-enrollment courses."
At Mennonite colleges and universities, such courses "introduce students to the benefits of an Anabaptist-Mennonite education beyond high school," says Elaine Moyer, MEA associate director. "They have the opportunity to test their wings with college rigor and accumulate affordable college credit."
Bluffton’s approach "ensures a relationship that will allow high school students to discover the importance of a Bluffton experience," she says, adding her appreciation for "the leadership that Bluffton is providing" in dual enrollment with Mennonite high schools.
To participate in the program, a student must either have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0—on a 4.0 scale—or be recommended by the course instructor. To serve as an instructor, the high school teacher must hold a master’s degree in the content area or have earned at least 15 graduate credits in the content along with "extraordinary experience." In addition, teachers must have an administrative recommendation from their high school, as well as approval from the pertinent department chair at Bluffton.
Participating students pay $75 in tuition per dual-enrollment credit hour and gain online access to the university library and to Jenzabar, Bluffton’s student-services system. Students receive Jenzabar account information, and a Bluffton student ID card, during a required orientation visit.
At the same time, they can sit in on the campus version of the class they will be taking or meet a faculty member who teaches in that subject area, says Chris Jebsen, Bluffton’s admissions director. "It creates a good relationship with our faculty and exposes students to the real experience of taking classes here," he says, pointing out, too, that dual-enrollment students who ultimately enroll at the university are eligible for a $1,000 scholarship. "We embrace these students as Bluffton students."
Instructors must also spend at least a half day on campus for an orientation. They are not paid by the university but are classified as adjunct faculty for teaching the college-level material. A Bluffton faculty member is assigned to oversee each class.
A group of Central Christian teachers and Eugene Miller, the school’s head administrator, visited Bluffton in January for meetings about potential courses and a campus tour that included a look at the university’s video conferencing room in Centennial Hall. A delegation from Bethany Christian got a similar tour in February, and "we’re exploring what possibilities might exist with these schools through distance learning," Jebsen says. "We want Bluffton to be valued as a place that’s open to new ways of delivering educational programs."
Availability of live streaming from Bluffton could create educational opportunities for Central Christian not possible with other prospective partner institutions, Miller says. In a February letter to parents announcing the expanded program, he wrote that 10 or more credits could be added through live streaming, contingent upon technology upgrades at the school.
Those credits, on top of the roughly 20 credits to be offered through traditional classes, could give Central Christian graduates up to 30 credit hours—about one year’s worth of college credit before leaving high school. That’s a goal, says Miller, noting that "economically, it will help our families a great deal."
"It also raises the expectation level of our students," getting them thinking about college earlier in high school, he continues. And he hopes they will consider Bluffton among their top three college choices for some of the same reasons why Central Christian chose the university as its dual-enrollment partner, as listed in his letter to parents—quality of education, as evidenced by the university’s inclusion this year in U.S. News & World Report’s top tier of Best Regional Colleges; "a strong tradition of character development" in students; opportunity for students to strengthen their faith; and "a strong focus on global education."
"We chose Bluffton because we wanted that kind of community" for Central Christian students, Miller says.
Bluffton public relations, 5/10/11