High school students earn college credits, gauge interest in business careers

Initiatives in education, from kindergarten through college, will inevitably motivate debates among government decision-makers, the education community, taxpayers, and students.  However, there is one issue of which there is general consensus. 

Education opens doors and an educated workforce is a good thing for our economy.

The state – through its “Prepare Rhode Island” initiative – is looking for a more comprehensive way to provide college courses to its citizens including high school students who are prepared to take them.  Christine P. Dolan, an education specialist at the University of Rhode Island, explains it is not a new initiative, but rather, one being highlighted as government leaders and education proponents continue to promote easier access to higher education. 

The process described by Dolan is straight-forward.  When a high school decides that it wants to make college credits available to its students, it reaches out to URI, Rhode Island College, or the Community College of Rhode Island. For a fee, students sign up for the course and secure college credits while still in high school.

“We have an approved syllabus for each course, which they must use,” said Dolan.

The majority of the courses provide general education requirements, such as Writing 101. Many high schools throughout Rhode Island are exposing students to courses such as Introduction to Accounting and Financial Accounting, which has proven an invaluable opportunity. 

“Financial accounting is a fundamental course for any college or university that every business major must take,” said Dolan. “For a high school student, it may either confirm for them that this is where they want to be – or it’s not their thing.”

There is also the practical side of the equation. Earning even a few college credits while in high school puts a student that much closer to earning their college degree, or at the very least, selecting a career path to pursue.

“It’s really about expanding opportunity – that’s what we are trying to do,” said Dolan. “It is certainly a benefit if a student can get involved in a career at a young age."

Rose Majeika is the director of guidance at South Kingstown High School, which offers a wide range of courses for college credit – approved by URI and Rhode Island College -- over several academic disciplines. Students in South Kingstown can select from such classes as AP English Literature & Composition; AP French Language; Honors Italian; AP Calculus; AP Chemistry; AP Studio Art; and more.  The school also offers business courses, which have proven to be popular with students.

“We offer our students an Accounting course, along with College Business, International Business, and Personal Financial Planning courses,” said Majeika. “The interest in accounting is reflected in the fact that 20 students take that course each year.”

Majeika said she welcomes a push from the state Department of Education to place emphasis on giving more high school students access to college courses. To folks like she and Dolan, it is the proverbial win-win situation. For educators, there is a value in challenging our youth. Government leaders recognize value, as well, in long-term benefits for our economy.