Highschoolers in Community College
By Ann Zeise
It started out innocently enough. Our son, Scott, wanted to learn computer aided drafting. To learn this computer application one needs a very powerful computer and a rather expensive piece of software called “PTC Creo (formerly ProEngineer).” The books that are sold to explain this software are all very thick tomes. Didn’t exactly look too friendly to our teen autodidactic. Our local community college, Ohlone in Fremont, California, offered the course, and the teacher seemed friendly enough and willing to take on a youngster. The class would be self paced, with the teacher coaching on new features.
To enroll as a high school student, we had a form to fill out and we were supposed to have a permission letter from a local high school’s principal or counselor. I asked them if a student from a private boys school wanting to attend Ohlone, would they require permission from a public school to do so? This got a ball rolling and the admissions folks decided that they wanted to see our R4 and to have a letter from me, the administrator of our “private school” giving Scott permission to take the classes and to not hold them liable for progress.
Here’s my template, on our “ZeiSchool School Letterhead,” with some editing for this publication:
I am pleased to recommend that Scott Zeise be allowed to take more than 7 units at Ohlone College in the Fall Semester 200x. He is a good student and intends to take:
[List of courses.]
Scott, who is 16, has our full approval to take these courses or similar substitutions, if he can’t get in these courses.
We do not hold Ohlone College liable for his progress in these courses.
ZeiSchool is a legal private school in the State of California and has an R4 Affidavit on record at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. A copy is provided for you.
We have resubmitted this letter each semester, and they’ve gotten used to us now, and the application for another semester goes through easily.
As a new student, he had to take assessment tests for Math and English. He placed just where we thought he’d be in math, but English surprised us: he placed right into freshman English! The test hadn’t required any actual essay writing, and Scott has a good vocabulary, reads widely, and so recognizes good English when he sees it, not because we’ve drilled him with grammar lessons. We had him take a basic writing course.
Why change from being an unschooler to being a college student at 16 some might ask? For Scott the novelty of it was an adventure. Most of his classes are not so different than his own explorations when he was younger. He’s often done self-paced courses of his own choosing, startling us with the decision to go through something like a physiology book meant for nursing students all on his own. He’s also been studying biology and Latin with a homeschooled friend. Sometimes teens who have been under no pressure for a good number of years, suddenly get a yen to try organized classes, and decide that college may well be a good idea. When this hits at 16, you wonder if you can possibly get this kid a transcript that might be acceptable! Two years at a community college can cover all courses most colleges would like to see. Best yet, the courses are almost all considered “honors” courses!
Are we still legally homeschoolers? Yes. We still file the R4. I suppose we could have had Scott take the GED or CHSPE and then apply for college entrance to Ohlone, but it was recommended to us by Wes Beach, of Beach High , at one of his seminars, that we go the route of dual enrollment as a high school student. Not only does the transcript of ‘honors courses’ look better, but the colleges do not charge course fees for high school students! [This is written before the full effect of education cutbacks in 2003 are fully known. See Bill Mosely’s comment below.] The cost of books and supplies is still very high, so it isn’t exactly a free ride. We also pay a small amount for a photo ID and some college health fees.
I am a full-time faculty member at a California community college. Enrollment for any student that does not have a GED or diploma is going to get increasingly difficult for the next couple of tight budget years. I know that there has been at least some discussion at our school and the state chancellor’s office about closing the doors to high school students as a means of allowing access to the students who “really need it” — ……………. Bill Moseley
We attended a college fair at St Mary’s College in Moraga. Most of the private colleges seemed very impressed at the work he was doing. The UC and CSU system, so overwhelmed with applicants, didn’t seem as warm. The private colleges seemed to be handing out financial discounts, cuts in fees as long as grade average stayed above B-. Our plan is to have him attend a 4-year college with most of his undergraduate core coursework completed so he can have more time to experiment.
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This page will be updated as the budget cutbacks become known and how they will affect high schoolers, homeschooled or not, who wish to dual enroll in a California community college.
Update: After getting a phone call from the University of Hawaii encouraging him to apply, Scott thought he’d give it a try, having not filled out an application before, he did this as an academic exercise. He applied for the spring semester, to enter as a transfer student, mid-year sophomore level. The University of Hawaii based his entrance solely on his having more than 25 transferable units with the grade point average they wanted to see. He’s now having a great time in Honolulu, and having fun complaining to me about the heat!