Woodstock High School graduate Alisha Virani said she first got involved in dual credit classes in her freshman year.
During her high school career, she took some college-level classes at her school and during the summer at McHenry County College.
Over the weekend, she walked the graduation stage twice and received both a high school degree and an associates degree. Ahead of her two graduations, Virani said on Friday she felt relieved. With many of her general education classes in college already done - as well as money saved - she said it was a lot of hard work to get to this point.
“It doesn’t feel real to me,” she said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. But I’m super thankful.”
Virani is one of 21 students in Woodstock School District 200 who received an associates degree along with their high school degree over the weekend thanks to the dual degree program offered through the district.
With dual credit on the rise in McHenry County in recent years, District 200 is seeing a lot of interest from students.
This year’s graduating class, totaling 474 students, had nearly half with at least 12 college credit hours obtained through the district’s dual credit program, Superintendent Mike Moan said. Of those, 21 received enough credits to get an associates degree.
“It doesn’t feel real to me. It hasn’t hit me yet. But I’m super thankful.”— Woodstock High School graduate Alisha Virani
“It’s amazing the doors that can open to [students],” Moan said. “Students and staff put a lot of hard work in.”
The program is one offered in partnership with District 200 and McHenry County College, according to a news release from District 200. What started as a concept or idea that looked good on paper has grown into a fully fledged program that is now being realized for the first time, Moan said.
Officials at MCC said they plan to release more information on this year’s class later in the week.
This year’s class earned an average of 69 college credits throughout high school, and most will be enrolling in a four-year university as a junior this upcoming fall, according to the release.
Behind this year’s class is more to come, Moan said.
“When you start compounding that, that’s a huge savings for somebody.”— Woodstock School District 200 Superintendent Mike Moan on the cost-savings of dual credit
Both the number of students with 12 hours, as well as the total graduating with an associates degree should increase in the coming years. District 200 now has 132 students enrolled in the dual degree program, with the class of 2026 expected to have 45 graduates, according to the release.
Jillian Barry, science department chair at Woodstock North High School, and a dual credit human biology instructor, said she thinks the dual credit program gives students an opportunity to explore other career paths they might not otherwise have been exposed to. It also opens the door to pursing things like double majors once in college.
This year, she had three sections of kids with 28 students each – up from two last year. While she expects to have a similar amount of students next year, the different kinds of dual credit classes offered should expand.
“It’s really growing,” she said.
Across McHenry County, students taking dual credit is up by 600% since 2015, with more than 4,400 students enrolled this past year.
District 200 offered 37 courses this school year, which is up from eight a few years ago. In 2019 and 2020, the district had fewer than 200 students taking dual credit. This past year they had more than 800.
In addition to providing students the chance to explore their interests, it also gives them flexibility to potentially take a different path post-high school, such as delaying college for a gap year, or to work, Moan said. It can also help students graduate faster.
Above all else, officials including Moan have touted the cost-savings associated with dual credit programs. With many students nowadays taking out student loans, it can mean savings thousands.
“When you start compounding that, that’s a huge savings for somebody,” Moan said.