Riley Willis could hardly believe that he’d be graduating so fast and with his associates degree as a high school senior. With a new school year underway, students are able to shave off years of college while in high school through dual enrollment programs. This semester 276 Sumter County students are enrolled in a dual-enrollment program through Lake-Sumter State College as of Aug. 25. This is a slight increase from fall semester numbers last year, rising from a drop in dual enrollment numbers from the pandemic enrollment numbers in Fall 2019.
In the local public schools, South Sumter High School rose in dual enrollment with Lake-Sumter State College while Wildwood Middle High School has dropped.
These students commute to LSSC campuses to take courses alongside LSSC students.
LSSC’s Executive Director of Strategic Communications, Kevin Yurasek said, most students generally shave off a year or more of college but The Villages High School offers the unique track to obtain their associates.
Unlike other dual enrollment programs, VHS has the opportunity for students to take full college course loads at the school with LSSC accredited instructors at VHS.
Over 180 courses are on offer at the Villages High School, among those 17 Advanced Placement (AP) classes and 24 dual-enrollment courses.
“Currently we have about 40 seniors on track to earn their associates,” Grant said.
VHS earned a total of 2,750 Dual enrollment college credit hours.
Additionally, 924 college credit hours are earned as well based on AP exam grades.
This rounds to a total of 3,674 college credit hours earned by VHS students last year.
“Thus giving our students and their families a combined total financial savings of roughly $403,000,” Grant said. “That’s a huge amount of money saved!”
Grant said, every year roughly 20 to 25% of students are able to earn their associates through the VHS program.
Willis is VHS senior and dual enrollment student, that can hardly believe freshman year was just a few years ago.
“It just goes by way too fast,” Riley said.
Riley is taking two courses this semester, college statistics and chemistry along with several AP courses.
This is a slightly lighter load of dual enrollment than previously, when he was taking four to five courses.
Riley found the courses to be some of the most challenging in his high school career.
“So long as you put everything into it and work hard, you’ll do fine,” Riley said.
Riley is among the 40 seniors that will be obtaining their associates with their high school diploma.
Riley plans to go to Full Sail University or the University of Florida for his bachelors degree, majoring in graphic design.
Riley is a National Honor Society member and even co-founded his own club this year, a gaming club centered around charity streaming.
Grant sees a great future for VHS students once the new campus arrives, which will expand the offerings the school and LSSC offer one another.
This includes possible major options and tracks for students to earn molded AA’s for their career field through the academies.
Much like the new campus, however, this remains a plan in construction.
The currently offered degree is a Associates of Arts (AA) Degree in General Studies.
AA degrees offer transfer options to all of Florida’s state universities from a state college like LSSC.
LSSC uniquely offers a DirectConnect program that enables it’s graduates guaranteed admission to the University of Central Florida.
The move also puts both schools at much closer distance to one another, with the new VHS campus in Sumterville nearby to LSSC’s Sumterville satellite campus.
The Sumterville campus also houses the line worker program for LSSC.
“The vast majority of students take dual enrollment courses right now for their AA in General Studies,” Yurasek said.
Yurasek said, that there is possible DE students in workforce career tracks like the line worker program but “that’s the exception and not the norm for those programs.”
Staff writer Garrett Shiflet can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5367, or firstname.lastname@example.org.