Through a new dual degree program, Huntley High School students soon will be able to graduate with both their high school diploma and an associate of arts degree in hand.
Huntley joins Woodstock and Harvard as the third high school to partner with McHenry County College on a dual degree program. Huntley will hold an informational meeting on Dec. 1 to discuss the opportunity and how it can advance students’ college and career goals in an affordable way.
“What we’re really focused on is our students accomplishing something and breaking down walls that might prevent them from going to college beyond high school, and we’ve done so in a way that’s not only, I think, creative, but it’s also very equitable,” Huntley District 158 Superintendent Scott Rowe said.
Students who participate in this program will be responsible for one-third of the total cost of tuition plus any books, fees and supplies for their courses. Huntley and McHenry County College will split the remaining cost of tuition.
Alexandra Aguila, a sophomore at Huntley High School, wants to attend a four-year university after graduating, with hopes to pursue a master’s degree in statistics or sports management. For her, the dual degree program will help her achieve her goals in a more affordable way.
“It’s a really good opportunity to take advantage of because not a lot of high schools offer this, and I think that it’s not only favorable to me but to my parents as well,” Aguila said. “Financially, I think this is a good investment because by participating, I can minimize my student financial obligations.”
The district estimates total tuition and fees to be about $140 per credit hour, meaning Huntley students can expect to pay $46.60. At this rate, the cost for dual degree students to complete the required 60 credit hours for the associate of arts degree is just shy of $2,800.
“We need to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to accommodate all learners at all of our local high schools,” said McHenry County College’s director of college and career readiness, Mike Kennedy. “At Huntley, there might be some students that never thought college was an option for them. ... While the overall population of Huntley might appear to be a little bit different than with Woodstock or Harvard, ... there’s still that same demographic of students there that need that same assistance, and this is going to be a great program for those students.”
About 12% of Huntley’s student body qualifies as low-income, according to state data, which is lower than the other participating schools. Woodstock and Harvard’s low-income students make up 34% and 42% of the student body, respectively.
Huntley students pursuing a dual degree will begin taking college level courses the summer between sophomore and junior year. By the time they are seniors, students can expect six of their seven classes to be dual credit, taken either at Huntley High School or MCC.
“I think at first probably the workload, it’s hard, but I always have to think about the end result and the motivation of, you know, this is for my future career and eventually things will start to even out,” Aguila said. “I’ll get used to the habit of having a lot of work and transferring between MCC and the high school, and I think the biggest part of this is the motivation and the drive to just achieve more.”
During the 2022-23 school year, Huntley will offer 16 dual credit courses. All other dual credit courses will be taken on MCC’s campus. Students will transfer between campuses via a bus system.
The school’s goal is to increase the number of teachers who can teach dual credit courses at the high school, Rowe said. In the state of Illinois, educators wishing to instruct college-level courses must hold a master’s degree in the subject they’re teaching.
The question of who was going to teach the courses was one of the largest obstacles the two schools had to overcome in the eight years of planning.
“It was a mindset of who owns this type of a degree and how do we really share in this work?” Rowe said.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Alexandra Aguila’s name.