When the school day ends for Deptford High School senior Serena Amuzu, she moves on for more classes — at college.
She is among 65 classmates enrolled at Rowan College of South Jersey through a program that allows eligible seniors to get a jump-start on college. By the time they graduate from high school in June, some will have enough credits to begin college as upperclassmen.
At least one is expected to pick up a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time after completing 60 credits at Rowan.
“It gives me a better head start,” said Amuzu, 17, an aspiring doctor. “I’m going to be in school for a long time, and this will save time and money.”
Deptford is the only school district participating in the high school collegiate program at Rowan College, which was launched this year and waives tuition to allow seniors to take up to three classes per semester: English, psychology, and Spanish. Students at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Deptford have a separate program.
Students can take 12 additional credits free and get a 65% discount on any courses after that. Tuition is $152 per credit, among the lowest in the state, for those living in Gloucester or Cumberland Counties.
More than one-fourth of this year’s graduating class of about 245 students is participating in the program, vice principal Danielle Lehman said. Students must score at least 480 in English and 500 in math on the SAT to qualify or take a college placement test.
“It’s pretty neat to be able to provide that for our kids," said Lehman. ”It’s just a wonderful opportunity for them."
After attending morning classes at the high school, students are bused or drive to the nearby Rowan College campus.
The idea is to give seniors a chance to complete general education electives and streamline the transition to Rowan College and ultimately a four-year institution, said Megan Ruttler, executive director of Rowan’s Career and College Readiness program. The credits can be applied toward coursework at Rowan and other state colleges, she said.
“It’s just getting them acclimated to the environment,” Ruttler said. “We’re just trying to give them the tools they need to be successful.”
Ruttler said a dual enrollment collegiate program will be added in the fall for Vineland High School students to attend its Vineland campus.
A growing number of districts, including Woodbury, Gloucester City, Penns Grove, West Deptford, and Delsea Regional, are paying tuition for their students to attend Rowan, but are not part of the high school collegiate program, she said.
At Rowan, the high schoolers’ program is housed in a second-floor annex. Classes are held four afternoons a week. Each three-credit course lasts an hour and 15 minutes. The high schoolers blend in with Rowan students and follow the college’s 15-week curriculum.
The courses are taught by Deptford employees who were approved as Rowan adjuncts. A fourth class, public speaking, will be added this summer.
“It’s awesome,” said David Hubert, 17, as aspiring accountant who is taking three classes. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can, especially if it’s free. Why not?”
During an English 102 class recently, about a dozen students began class with a quiz followed by a rigorous discussion of James Joyce’s short story “Eveline” with professor Peter Mosiondz, one of three adjuncts who instruct the Deptford students.
Mosiondz, a 21-year educator, said he has high expectations for his students. He also teaches at Rowan’s main campus in Glassboro.
“I don’t believe in making it easier because they’re high school students,” he said.“They’re completely into it.”
Several students said they would consider enrolling in the regional community college, which offers more than 120 degree and certificate programs. They can earn a bachelor’s through a “3+1 program," which allows them to pay three years of cheaper community college tuition and just one year at a four-year university.
“It’s going to save me a lot of money,” said Julianna White, 17.