TVCC dual-credit program saves students time, money
When Trinity Valley Community College (TVCC) pioneered its dual-credit program with Terrell High School in 2014-15, the initiative needed an essential component – a pioneer.
A competitive Terrell High sophomore who wanted to be the first to complete the program checked the box. When Emmy Cooper graduated in 2017, she became the first Terrell High student to earn a high school diploma as well as a college associate degree. Today at age 21, Cooper is a freshly minted graduate of Texas A&M University, having completed a four-year degree plan in three years.
Since 2017, scores of Terrell students have followed in Cooper’s footsteps, and TVCC’s dual credit program has flourished across a spectrum of 27 Texas high schools. TVCC President Dr. Jerry King sees only upside to the program.
“The advantage obviously is the student is able to get a (college) education while they’re still in high school. It’s obviously a win-win for the student and for the parents and for the school and the taxpayer. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.”
Added King: “It’s such a great opportunity for these students to get a head start. And it’s such a cost-savings opportunity for the parents and the students.”
Saving money on college costs is becoming exceedingly fashionable. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, outstanding student loan debt in the United States is between $902 billion and $1 trillion. The estimated cost to attend Texas A&M for 2018-2019 was $28,000 for in-state residents, which includes tuition and fees, housing and meals, books, transportation and miscellaneous expenses, according to collegefactual.com. Cooper pegged tuition and fees alone at roughly $5,000 to $6,000 per semester.
Along with having a competitive streak, Cooper said she was motivated to obtain an associate degree through her parents’ pledge to let her study abroad if they realized a savings in college costs. They did, and she studied for a time in Finland, an experience she described as “awesome.”
Still, taking a load of college courses in high school took hard work and careful planning. Cooper found college-level courses a bit more challenging than high school classes, and she completed some college coursework in the summer, she said. Her associate’s degree is in liberal arts.
High school graduates who want to dive right into the college courses that interest them most can see a big benefit from the dual-credit program, noted King.
“They’re able to get all those general study courses behind them while they’re in high school, so when they get to the university they can take the courses they’re really interested in,” he explained, adding that hours earned through TVCC’s dual-credit program are transferrable to any state university in Texas.
In the program’s early years, about seven or eight years ago, “We didn’t have any graduates from Terrell or the other schools,” said King. Since then, the program has taken wing.
“We’ve come a long way; it’s really exceeded expectations,” King stated.
At Terrell High, 29 students will graduate this spring with a TVCC associate degree. Another 21 will leave Terrell High with 24-plus college hours. As part of career tech, 13 students swill graduate with industry certifications, and 12 will graduate from the TISD-TVCC Health Sciences Academy. Terrell students do not pay tuition or fees for TVCC classes, according to the TISD communications office.
Cooper, who graduated from A&M with a degree in business management and a minor in psychology, intends to move to Dallas where she will be employed by a recruiting firm known as the Addison Group. She’ll work in finance and accounting. Her plans also call for frequent trips back to College Station, where she’ll attend A&M ballgames and visit with dear friends, many of whom she missed spending time with during her final semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Luckily,” Cooper said, “I’ll still have those friendships forever.”