Beyond Uni: Taking advantage of concurrent enrollment
THE BELL FOR fourth period has just rung, and a typical throng of Uni students has invaded the hallway. Senior Sam Klein is in the midst of the crowd, and he too is headed to his next class — HEBR 202: Elementary Modern Hebrew II in Davenport Hall on the University of Illinois campus.
Klein is one of six Uni students this semester who have taken advantage of the concurrent enrollment system that Uni offers — and the payoff has been great.
“It's a really good experience being able to take a U of I class, and it gives me a chance to take Hebrew, which I wouldn't have been able to do in high school if it wasn't for the U of I,” says Klein.
The concurrent enrollment system allows Uni students to take classes at both the U of I and at Parkland College while also taking classes at Uni. Students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better and must also ensure that the classes outside of Uni do not conflict with their Uni schedule.
Credit received for these classes counts for credit needed to graduate from the U of I, and the grade earned is calculated into the GPA on the U of I transcript if the student goes there, but it is not counted on the student's grade point average or credit total at Uni High.
“The advantage to taking a concurrent enrollment course is that people who are really interested in something or would like to pursue something in greater depth have the opportunity to do so at the U of I,” says guidance counselor Sam Smith. “Also it's good for people to be with their peers, and sometimes these peers are intellectual peers, and so some kids can find this in a college class.”
LESS MONEY AND FEWER PROBLEMS
Thanks to a change initiated by Director/Principal Kathleen Patton, concurrent enrollment has become more attractive than ever for Uni students.
“I went to the Provost's Office this year and asked for tuition waivers for students, and [they] said ‘Yes,'” Patton recalls. “I think that the University really would be happy to see more of our students, and so one of those ways to experience the U of I would be through the concurrent enrollment program.”
Senior Dana Al-Qadi is taking a U of I history
seminar this spring. (Gargoyle photo by Shivani
Khanna) (click to enlarge)
Under the change that Patton refers to, Uni students no longer have to pay the full tuition required for attending U of I classes, which can generally cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 and is expected to increase over the next few years.
“Students are still required to pay the student fees, which is not unusual when scholarships or tuition waivers are given out,” Smith notes.
The $228 student fee per semester is a general University fee, which all students are required to pay when taking classes at the U of I.
During the 2005-06 school year, only eight Uni students concurrently enrolled in U of I classes.
This year a total of 11 students have taken concurrent enrollment courses, and the increase can be attributed to the tuition waivers.
Paige Martin, who is enrolled in ITAL 101: Elementary Italian I, is one example.
“I wouldn't have taken Italian if I hadn't heard about [the tuition waiver],” she says.
Senior Emily Kamm is another example. Kamm took a Spanish honors course during the fall semester.
“It was an independent study with a Spanish professor, so it was one-on-one, and I wouldn't have been able to go because my parents are basically facing a lot of college costs anyway, so the fact that I could take a U of I class for about $200 dollars was good,” she says.
For some Uni students, however, the financial benefits of taking a U of I course were not factors in their decision to use the concurrent enrollment option. Seniors Lydia Ansermet and Amanda Grill both decided to take PHIL 102: Logic and Reasoning this semester.
Both agreed that they would have taken the class regardless of the cost. Ansermet, who is planning to attend the U of I in the fall and major in philosophy, had a practical reason for signing up.
“I'm not specifically taking it because I want to but more because I want to go into philosophy next year,” she says, “and so I knew that I would have to take it, and it was just more convenient to do it this year.”
UNI vs. U OF I: ATMOSPHERE AND TEACHING STYLE
Ansermet is no novice at the college level. She has taken courses at Parkland College on Eastern religion, introductory philosophy, and the New Testament. Indeed, she prefers college classes.
“There is a different atmosphere because people choose to be there,” Ansermet says. “There isn't any confrontation between teachers and students because the students aren't doing their work.”
While some may find the lecture classes in college dull and uninteresting, Ansermet finds that for some subjects this style of teaching suits her needs quite well.
“Sometimes I just want to learn about a subject and not do discussions or group work like you might have to at Uni because I don't really know enough to talk about it,” she says. “This is why lecture classes are so great; it's up to you what you take away from it.”
In addition, the more laissez-faire attitude that college professors are known for appeals to Ansermet for several reasons.
“Some Uni teachers have a ‘mommy complex' where they're hounding you all the time to get your work in. With U of I professors they're not criticizing you. The other thing in college classes is that you can do it or not do it and fail; it's really up to you. You're treated more like an equal by the teacher.”
Dana Al-Qadi understands what Ansermet is talking about. The senior is taking HIST 199: Undergraduate Open Seminar, which looks at history through film. Her class meets twice a week, once to watch a movie and the second time to discuss the movie they saw.
“David Prochaska, my professor [and a Uni parent], will throw out points to the class about the movie, and it becomes really open to interpretation,” she says. “What you get out of it is your prerogative.”
Al-Qadi says the class reminds her of Uni history teacher Bill Sutton's classes — which might not be all that surprising since Sutton, a Ph.D. in history, earned all of his degrees at the U of I.
This kind of relaxed approach can extend even to math classes.
“Last semester I took MATH 385: Intro Differential Equations, which is a junior engineering course,” Martin recalls, “and it was rather different from [the Uni] classes which I have been taking for the past three years. The lecturer was more laid back and lazy when it came to writing things out, which I wasn't used to doing.”
UNI vs. U OF I: ORGANIZATION
Not only do U of I courses differ from many Uni classes in teaching style, they also differ from their Uni counterparts in organization, flexibility, and workload.
“There were only four tests, including the final, and one was dropped, if you wanted, in my math class,” Martin remembers. “There was weekly homework, however. For the Italian class I'm taking now, though, there are online homeworks that you have to do using Mallard . We have a Mallard assignment almost every day that we're in class, and then twice a week we have to post on the Web board in Italian.”
For Grill and Ansermet, the change between Uni and U of I was more noticeable when it came to how their college course was structured.
“On the first day we got a really detailed written-out syllabus as compared to the beginning of Uni classes, where the syllabus is much less comprehensive,” says Grill.
Klein had a similar experience with his Hebrew class.
“The first day when I walked in I got a sheet of paper with all the days that we would have quizzes and when classes would be,” he says. “It was really different from the way that Uni classes are structured.”
Grill mentions that the college grading system varies from professor to professor and is often more flexible than the one Uni upholds for all of its classes.
“The grading is easier; the cut-offs for getting an A are lower,” she says. “A score of 96 to 100 is an A-plus, 92 to 96 is an A, and an 88 to 91 is an A-minus. All of the B's that I got at Uni have been in that 88 to 90 range, so I could have had a 4.0 GPA [if the same grading system was used at Uni].”
Ansermet adds that the homework policy for their philosophy course is easier, too.
“We have six homework assignments, three of which are mandatory and three of which are optional and for practice,” she says. “The professor drops your worst score, and you're allowed to turn in an optional homework for a mandatory one if the score is higher on the optional. The homeworks are exactly how the tests will be, which is a good thing.”
Despite the fact that Ansermet and Grill are finding this course easier than they expected, they have both decided that getting an A grade is important to them.
“I'm going to do whatever it takes to get an A,” says Grill. “This isn't the same attitude that I had with my Uni classes. This is more to just prove to myself that I'm capable of it.”
TRANSITION TO COLLEGE
Being a high school student packed into a room with a bunch of college kids may sound nightmarish, but after the initial stress of dealing with the transition into a college classroom, Uni students feel they fit in just fine.
“Being able to meet people and make new friends made adjusting easier for me because I was in a smaller course which only has 15 people,” Klein says. “It helps to see these smaller courses in a school that's known for having classes filled with more than a hundred kids.”
Martin's initial experience at the U of I was more difficult to adjust to, mainly because her class was so large.
“For the math class it was filled with upperclassmen, and I was used to working together on homework and asking questions,” she says. “But since it was a large class, I didn't know anyone. It was a really hard thing for me because I was on my own.”
College classes are known for the speed with which they cover material, and while this may seem like a potential problem for some students, Martin found that Uni had prepared her adequately.
“I was scared going into my Italian class because I thought they would go faster and it would be harder than I was used to, but it was surprisingly similar to how students learn here,” she says.
Klein found that his course dispelled a lot of rumors about the college workload.
“When you hear about the U of I and college classes in general you hear that there is going to be a lot of reading involved,” he says. “But it's really not that bad at all, for me at least.”
Al-Qadi believes her venture onto the college level will make the transition easier for her when she goes to college full time.
“I'm glad I exposed myself to the atmosphere of a college classroom already because it's taken away the fear that I had,” she says. “It's definitely taken away the stereotype that college is scary.”
Adds Grill: “At first I was intimidated, but then I realized that that would be me in like six months, so I got accustomed to it.”
College students skipping classes? Sleeping in and playing hooky? These all sound like common occurrences and the types of luxuries that are available to college kids. For Uni students, however, this was a nonissue — though the possibility was always there.
“In this class the professor told us that there have been students who didn't come to class every day and they still passed,” says Ansermet. “He didn't recommend it, but you could do it if you wanted to because he puts all of his lecture notes online. This becomes really helpful if you happen to miss class one day if you're sick or something.”
One day Martin got a reminder of how much more freedom can be found at a college level.
“I went up to my math lecturer one day to ask him to sign the yellow absence slip because I would be gone for a week, and he just looked at me so weirdly and was like, ‘You don't really have to do this,'” she recalls.
Some classes, however, are less lenient than Ansermet's and Grill's when it comes to missing class.
“You can miss the class when we watch a movie and just do it on your own time, but you have to be there for the discussion class,” Al-Qadi says of her history course.
Martin's Italian 101 class was much more strict about attendance.
“She [the professor] said that we got four days to miss, otherwise our grade would suffer for it,” Martin says. “You can't really miss a class, and it's really unlike Uni where most teachers are pretty forgiving.”
But for Klein, all the talk about attendance requirements is beside the point.
“It's really like wasting your money,” he says. “You get your money's worth when you go, and you really miss the experience of being in class when you miss class.”
Generally speaking, the fact that Uni students are taking advantage of the largest academic resource available to them — the U of I — has served them well.
“I think we've just outgrown high school,” says Ansermet, “and we're ready to move on to being treated like smart, competent individuals, rather than like children.”
— Audio podcast: Lydia Ansermet and Mandy Grill on concurrent enrollment
— Overview: Uni's concurrent enrollment program