A single class, double the credit

The kitchen is beautiful. Burner upon burner line the far wall, topped by a row of stainless steel hoods. Nine magnetic kitchen timers arranged haphazardly stick to the hoods (what must that sound like when they all go off at once?). At each work station is a small basket of knives and a set of rainbow-hued cutting boards.

When repair workers come in to fix a stove problem, they often tell Reneé Sigmon there are nice restaurants in town that don’t have the kind of equipment she does.

Sigmon shares this anecdote with a large smile. She teaches culinary arts classes at Carroll High School, in Fort Wayne, and she knows these classes are special. She doesn’t say she’s proud of what she helped build, but it’s written all over her face.

Carroll offers dual-credit classes through Ivy Tech Community College Northeast. The culinary arts classes, some of the first offered at a comprehensive high school (versus a technical or vocational high school), provide college credit toward students’ academic or technical honors diplomas and toward college degree programs through Ivy Tech.

“It’s just a cool space for the kids,” Sigmon says, “and they would not be able to get it anywhere else.”

One regional high school has taken dual credit to the next level: Bellmont High School, in Decatur, Ind. Bellmont participates in the Early College program with Ivy Tech Northeast, allowing students to earn a high school diploma while simultaneously working toward an associate degree with Ivy Tech Northeast.

“Many high schools want to have Early College programs,” says Dawn Bon Ami, director of academic affairs support services/secondary education and coordinator of Ivy Tech Northeast’s traditional dual-credit program. “It’s all about partnerships and seeing the value of getting a head-start with a college education.”

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE, IN HIGH SCHOOL

Once upon a time, Ali Felger wanted to go to college for a sport. Today, she is a graduate of Ivy Tech Northeast’s Hospitality Administration program, a lab steward (essentially a sous chef) for the college, and lead baker at Fort Wayne’s Vanilla Bean Unique Cookies & Cupcakes.

All because of the dual-credit classes offered at Carroll, which Sigmon encouraged her to take due to Felger’s experience in the high school’s advanced cooking class, she says.

Felger graduated high school in 2008 with nine college credit hours completed, and the experience helped her decide to attend Ivy Tech.

“I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “I was going to go to college for basketball. I loved this so  much better.”

In the fall, Felger plans to attend Ball State University for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in dietetics.

“Working here opened doors,” she says.

‘I THINK EVERYBODY SHOULD BE TAKING IT’

Ivy Tech offers three types of dual-credit: traditional dual credit, on-campus dual credit and online/distance education. Traditional dual credit, which is completely free, allows high school students to take classes at their own high school by instructors who have been certified by Ivy Tech to teach the college-level course, like Sigmon. On-campus dual credit allows high school students to take classes on Ivy Tech campuses or online, for the same cost as other Ivy Tech students.

“One goal is to get high school students enrolled in the program and encourage them to take the general education core of classes,” Bon Ami says.

Ivy Tech has 30 credits designed to transfer to any public institution of higher learning, and a high school student who focuses on those classes can graduate high school with more completed college courses than those who don’t necessarily focus on those core classes.

Through the years, enrollment in dual credit has grown substantially: From spring 2012 to 2013, Ivy Tech Northeast saw a 42 percent increase in the number of students taking dual-credit classes, to more than 5,700 students in spring 2013.

Currently, Ivy Tech Northeast partners with 50 high schools and career centers, and parents and students interested in learning more should contact their guidance counselors, Bon Ami says.

“I think everybody should be taking it,” Sigmon says. “When they’re juniors in high school, they don’t understand what it means to do dual credit. When they’re seniors, they get it: ‘I can walk into college with nine credits.’ That’s almost a full semester.”

Visit IvyTech.edu/dual-credit


Reneé Sigmon names the industrial stovetop and hood system as her favorite tool in the culinary arts classroom at Carroll High School in Fort Wayne. Sigmon, certified by Ivy Tech Northeast to teach dual-credit courses in culinary arts, showed off the classroom after students left one afternoon.