How 28K Wisconsin students earned college credit while in high school

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By Susan Pohorski

Brennan Schweiner and Marcus Kolarik, juniors at Denmark High School, earned 5 credits from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) while learning basic welding, CNC (computer numeric controlled) milling and coding skills. 

The students learned more than skills. They learned real-world problem solving. KI, an office furniture company, found that the process for attaching wheels to office chairs was causing part of the wheel to crack. Brennan and Marcus worked with seven other students to come up with a foot-operated, pneumatic machine that attaches the wheels without cracking them. High school students show a machine they created.

“I also expect the students to become better at the four C’s: communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity,” said Kory Fredrickson, their instructor. 

They used math skills to draw up elaborate design plans for the machine and used equipment in the NWTC mobile Computer Integrated Manufacturing Lab to fabricate their invention. 

“I wanted some background knowledge on how a CNC mill worked along with how the computer software Mastercam7 worked,” Brennan commented. “Overall I thought the class was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about how metal working goes and how a CNC machine works. It broadened my horizons for my future tech education whether I'd decide to go into a CNC or welding.” 

In 2014, 28,078 high school students earned Wisconsin technical college credits. Throughout the state high schools have more than 1,300 dual credit agreements with Wisconsin technical colleges. There are three common ways students earn dual credit: 

  1. Youth Options – This program allows public high school juniors and seniors who meet certain criteria and gain approval to take college courses at a public 4-year university, private non-profit college or Wisconsin technical college. Generally, students who have exhausted their options within the high school in certain subject areas and want to continue their studies at a higher level participate in Youth Options. For example, if a student has completed all the welding classes offered at his or her high school, they may continue to take courses at a local technical college. More than 2,000 students chose Youth Options last year.
  1. Dual Credit – Students can earn college credit through many mechanisms including both Advanced Standing and Transcripted Credit. Advanced standing credits are activated once the student enrolls in a technical college program connected to the credits. High school teachers certified by the technical college teach transcripted credit classes using the college-level curricula. These teachers are paired with a college instructor for ongoing mentoring. In transcripted credit, students earn both high school and technical college credit simultaneously. More than 22,000 students chose this option. They study subjects ranging from accounting to welding. 
  1. Youth Apprenticeship - Youth Apprenticeship is another way to earn college credit while enrolled in high school. Graduates of two-year Youth Apprenticeship programs may be awarded credits in specific Wisconsin technical college programs. Credits are earned in one of two ways: college courses within Youth Apprenticeship programs; or through advanced standing when you enroll in a technical college within 27 months after high school. Technical colleges may also grant additional credit through local transfer agreements. 

Youth Apprenticeship programs include studies in architecture, automotive technician, engineering, financial services, printing, health services and manufacturing. Last year 279 students were enrolled in Youth Apprenticeship programs. 

Check with your local technical college Career Prep Coordinator for specific requirements on agreements and obtaining credit.