Area Students Benefit from Panola College Dual Enrollment

Written by Teresa Beasley.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Public school students in the eighth grade are starting to think about their future careers as part of the 60x30TX established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB.) The goal of 60x30TX is that by 2030 at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have earned a certificate or degree. To help them chart their course for the future, Panola College offers dual enrollment courses to area school districts.

 “Research shows that someone with a certificate from a community college earns 71 percent more in their first year of employment than a high school graduate. Someone with a bachelor’s degree can earn nearly double the lifetime wages of a high school graduate,” says Dr. Greg Powell, Panola College President. “This increase benefits not only the individual, but also the state as a whole. As wages go up, so does the state’s revenue. Higher education and specialized training also help the state meet its changing workforce needs, spurring new businesses. In short, when Texas students win, the state wins.”

The costs associated with earning a college degree have increased steadily over the years, and the dual credit program at Panola College with cooperation from area public schools is one way to hold those expenses down for students and their families.

“We have been gratified by the participation of our Panola County school districts, including Carthage, Beckville and Gary, Panola Charter School, Northside Christian Academy, and home-school students. The administrators in these schools are partnering with us and covering the tuition for their students who take dual credit courses,” Dr. Powell said.

This summer, the College hired Angie Musgrove to serve as the Director of Dual Enrollment. Angie’s 27-year career in education, including the past decade as a counselor at Carthage High School, gives her the perfect credentials to work with area school districts and public school students. And she has hit the ground running: she has met with area schools and is revamping the Dual Credit webpage on the Panola College website to make it more user-friendly.

“We know that high school counselors face busy schedules. I worked as a counselor for 10 years,” Angie told a group of high school administrators and counselors at a meeting in August. “We are here to serve you. I’m working on the webpage to make it a one-stop shopping experience for the students, their parents, and school administrators.”

What are the advantages of dual credit? Angie outlined five primary areas that benefit students and parents. (1) Convenience. The courses are taught on the high school campuses, online, and at the Panola College campus. (2) Access to Student Resources. Dual credit students are considered Panola College students, with full access to the campus support services, including the library, tutors, etc. (3) Cost Effective. Taking college courses at Panola College costs less than most public colleges and universities. Panola College students benefit from in-district tuition rates. (4) Close to Home. The College serves four counties in Texas, and offers dual credit through the Carthage, Marshall, and Center locations. (5) Full Transferable Credit. Dual credit and early enrollment academic courses are fully transferable to public colleges and universities in Texas.

“Students who complete associate degrees at Panola College have the opportunity to be ‘core-complete’ at any public college or university in the state,” Angie says.

She also emphasizes that Panola College is committed to assisting with the Texas Education Agency’s college-ready, career-ready, and military-ready criteria. She plans to continue meeting with school counselors to chart a course to achieve the goals set out by the state.

“We’re going to host several eighth grade preview days over the next year to introduce junior high students to the various academic and technical opportunities we provide at Panola College. Last year’s preview days were a big success. We gave students the opportunity to try their hand at welding, and take a look at careers in the petroleum industry, business, health care, cosmetology and the liberal and fine arts.”

The preview days were designed to broaden students’ views about their career options. “Public schools offer students in the eighth grade the chance to select an endorsement, which is sort of a roadmap for their future. We believe we can help the students be better informed. Students will see a multitude of opportunities, some they never knew existed,” she says.

Dual credit enrollment at Panola College for spring 2018 showed an almost 10 percent increase over spring 2017, with 653 high school students enrolled. Numbers are not final for fall 2018, but the numbers are trending up as more and more students and their parents are recognizing the benefits of dual credit coursework.

In spring 2018, Carthage ISD had 82 dual credit students, Beckville 69, Gary 24, and Panola Charter School 98, with 42 from Panola County. Dual credit courses are open to all eligible students, and eligibility is determined by the public school. Dual credit courses are no different from regular college classes. Students in dual credit courses face the same expectations and complete the same assignments and tests as the traditional college student who has already graduated from high school. The discipline required to successfully complete dual credit courses prepares students for higher-level university courses or the requirements of the workplace.

“With the basics completed, students may move on to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree, or go straight to their technical profession,” says Angie. “We are here to provide the guidance and support these young people need to succeed in their chosen careers. We are happy to have high school students as part of our Panola family and are confident they will find their experience both challenging and fulfilling.”

Marissa’s Story

Marissa Davis Hammers, M.D.

My experience with dual credit courses began during my freshman year at Gary High School. I learned of students who had completed classes at Panola College during high school and received credit at both institutions; I thought that this would be a great way to help me graduate from college earlier. At that time, I never dreamed that I would be able to graduate from Panola College two weeks prior to my high school graduation.

I began with a few classes during the summer, and slowly increased my academic load, until I was basically taking every class I could at Panola. I was very fortunate because I received an incredible amount of support! My parents have always supported and encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a physician. They have always helped me to find my limits, and then exceed any expectations I may have for myself. Gary High School allowed me to leave campus to attend all my classes, and even reimbursed the cost as long as I did well. Lastly, Panola College was very supportive of me attending classes as a high school student. They gave me the extra guidance and counseling that I needed to better understand which classes would be most beneficial to achieving my career goals. Also, they were very helpful in determining which classes would transfer to Texas A&M, where I would be attending after graduation.

Since graduating from Gary High School and Panola College, I have graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and Paul L. Foster School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine degree. I am currently completing my Pediatric Residency at McLane Children’s Hospital/Baylor Scott and White Health Systems in Temple, Texas. Since I knew early on that I wanted to become a physician, completing dual credit courses allowed me to achieve that goal at a very young age. I would encourage anyone who wanted to further their education and hopefully begin their dream career sooner, to consider taking dual credit classes. My experience could not have been more seamless, and I would not be where I am now, at this age, without completing dual credit courses.

 Annie Mahaffey

2018 CHS Valedictorian

Annie Mahaffey, 2018 Carthage High School valedictorian, earned dual credit from Panola College. “I took U.S. History I and II over one summer, and government and economics the next summer,” Annie says.

As a National Merit Scholar, Annie had her pick of several prestigious universities, but settled on Vanderbilt after she and her parents visited the Nashville campus.

Annie’s commitment to excellence and determination to overcome obstacles became evident at an early age. She loved dance and enjoyed dance lessons and performing in recitals, but when she was in the fifth grade, she was diagnosed with a condition that required her to wear a back brace for three years. She endured the treatment and returned to dance, removing the brace for dance lessons and performance. She says the brace made her a stronger and better dancer and tennis player, so it was all worthwhile.

“I like to do my best,” she says. “I try to make perfect grades, I work whenever I can, I pray a lot, and I stay up late. I start my day with a devotional and read my Bible at night before I go to sleep.”

Annie served as editor-in-chief of the high school yearbook, The Pine Burr, for three years, was president of the National Honor Society, played on the varsity tennis team, and was a captain of the Bulldog Belles drill team.. She was secretary of the student council, and a member of the UIL journalism team, winning six medals at state competition.

With all her on-campus activities at CHS, Annie focused on earning her dual enrollment credits at Panola College during the summer, proving Panola’s commitment to flexibility in meeting individual student needs. “Annie took online classes at Panola College,” says her mom, Sherry Mahaffey, “and she was able to work on her courses even while we were on vacation. The flexibility was great.”