25-year-old BC3 program sets records

By William Foley

Students in seven counties getting “phenomenal jump-start” through College Within the High School  

Teacher Jim Murphy says Butler County Community College (BC3) courses instructed at DuBois Central Catholic High School in Clearfield County accommodate his students’ “desire to talk about ideas.”

Teacher Jennine Gleghorn says that because BC3 courses are taught at Mohawk High in Lawrence County, the setting affords her students “a better opportunity to adjust to the content level.”

Teacher John Tofani says he demonstrates to his students at Reynolds in Mercer County the financial advantages of taking BC3’s College Within the High School courses.

“I show them on paper,” Tofani said.

“You take a history course at any state university. This is what it is going to cost you with all the fees, versus BC3. You can get three college credits from BC3 for a third of the cost of what you will pay if you do go to a university or somewhere else.”

 ‘I am so thankful I listened’

Tofani this spring is teaching western civilization I as part of BC3’s 25-year-old College Within the High School program, which has set records in enrollment, in seats occupied and in credits pursued.

The program this spring enrolls 509 high school sophomores through seniors occupying 696 seats and pursuing 2,034 credits.

The previous record for enrollment was 507 in the fall 2020 semester. The previous record for seats occupied, 650, and for credits pursued, 1,911, were set in fall 2022.

BC3’s College Within the High School program provides students with the opportunity to begin their college career early and to explore various career possibilities.

Sophomores through seniors this spring are taking reduced-cost courses at 16 high schools or learning centers in Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Clearfield, Jefferson, Lawrence or Mercer counties.

“Seniors last year … recommended the program to me and they said it would set me on the right track for college next year,” said Lily Hillard, who intends to graduate this spring from Butler High and with 14 credits through BC3’s College Within the High School program.

“I am so thankful I listened.”

‘Resonating now more than ever before’

Dual enrollment and early college have demonstrated their effectiveness as strategies for high school graduation, postsecondary attainment, higher education affordability and student debt-reduction, according to the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

BC3’s College Within the High School credits can be applied toward BC3 associate degrees or certificates, or toward bachelor’s degrees at public, private and online four-year colleges and universities.

“It’s a phenomenal jump-start to go into your freshman year of college with this experience, with these credits in hand, with being able to lighten a credit load and to save money,” said Dr. Nick Neupauer, president of BC3.

“It is resonating now more than ever before.”

 ‘An affordable way to get credits’ 

Seth Stewart, 18, has taken four BC3 courses – two in English, one in psychology and one in music – at Brockway High in Jefferson County.

“I wanted to get a head start on my post-secondary career,” Stewart said. “I have taken every BC3 class that is available to me. All of these courses together are worth a total of 12 college credits before I even step foot on a campus.”

In the past 10 years, enrollment in BC3’s College Within the High School program has increased by 66%, seats occupied by 74.9% and credits pursued by 95.9%.

A three-credit BC3 College Within the High School program course this spring ranges from $405 to $429, depending on the county in which the high school is located.

“An affordable way to get credits,” added Darius Coe, a senior at Lawrence County Career and Technical Center.

‘I feel more prepared’

Only residents of seven other states have average monthly student-loan payments higher than do Pennsylvanians with $216.38, according to an April 5 report by LendEDU, a website that provides comparisons for loans, credit cards and other financial products.

“Folks are becoming more fiscally responsible, looking at costs,” said Amy Pignatore, BC3’s dean of admissions and the college’s registrar. “That, and the ease of transferring the credits, adds to the success of the program.”

BC3’s program this spring offers 21 courses that include business law, contemporary world history, elementary statistics, microeconomics – and principles of sociology, which Brady Hurley is taking.

“I wanted to learn a valuable curriculum while jump-starting my post-high school career with transferrable credits,” said Hurley, a senior at Lenape Technical School in Ford City.

“BC3’s course has already prepared me for the future. Since I am taking sociology, I am gathering a lot of knowledge on people as well as groups. The studies we view, statistics we examine and projects we do have given me a look into the world past my area, and have prepared me for what to expect once I’m presented with brand-new experiences.”

The syllabus and instructional materials used in BC3’s College Within the High School courses are the same as those for courses taught at a BC3 location.

Sixteen-year-old Graeme Wolf said he “took speech, specifically, to get more comfortable with public speaking in a classroom of my peers.”

The junior at Mars said he is also “mindful of the cost of college and CHS classes are a great way to get a college experience at a very affordable rate.  … I got a taste for the rigor of college courses in the comfort of my high school.  I feel more prepared to enter college now.”

As does Hunter Raffeinner, a senior at Brockway High, and Nicholas Ferrari, a junior at Mars, each of whom has earned nine credits through BC3’s College Within the High School program.

“I’ve learned how to manage my time,” Raffeinner said, “techniques on how to tackle difficult tasks and how to efficiently take notes.”

“I can handle the rigor of college classes,” Ferrari said. “I can effectively persuade a group of peers, effectively use outlines to give a coherent speech.”

William Foley

is the coordinator of news and media content Butler County Community College in Butler, Pennsylvania.