A group of 21 Polk County high school seniors will graduate from their respective high schools this weekend after already earning an associate degree.

Through a partnership between the Polk County College and Career Academy, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Georgia Highlands College, Polk School District has been able to not only offer dual enrollment for high school seniors, but also the opportunity for them to earn an associate degree while still in high school.

The most recent, and final, PSD group to do this was honored at a special banquet on Tuesday, May 18, at the Polk County College and Career Academy at Cedartown High School.

“Over the past six years, the partnership between Polk School District and the local post-secondary schools has proven to be a tremendous asset for the students we serve and the Polk County Community as a whole,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Katie Thomas.

Those who spoke included Dr. Elizabeth Anderson, VP of Academic Affairs from GNTC, Dr. Don Green, President of Georgia Highlands College, and Gary Morris, New CEO of the College and Career Academy.

“While this is our last class of students that will be able to graduate with an associate degree through Georgia’s dual enrollment program, our partnership remains strong and enrollment continues to grow,” Thomas said.

The end of the option to obtain an associate degree is due to HB 444, which was passed by the state legislature during the 2020 session.

Known as The Dual Enrollment Act, it limited the number of credit hours for dual enrollment students in the state to 30 hours. Before then there was no cap on the amount of credit hours students could complete while still in high school.

As a result, the costs of the program grew from $49 million in 2016 to $105 million in 2019, according to the Georgia Student Finance Commission Annual Report. Also a credit hour cap of 30 hours for students means they cannot earn an associate degree, which requires 60 or more credit hours.

Still, students can continue to take college-level courses to earn the number of credits allowed.

Thomas said the school district currently has 120 students accepted and registered to take courses at Georgia Highlands during the 2021-2022 school year.

The Polk County seniors who earned an associate degree this year are Ethan Lester, Lesley Munoz-Flores, Aislyn Smith, Mikayla Stockett, Madison Whatley, Lauren Allred, Trudi Baines Floyd, Nathan Barrett, Neely Collum, Alexis Free, Tayte Fuqua, Chloe Green, Emma Hanson, Megan Johnson, Andrew Lumpkin, Trey Morris, Sierra Post, Gavin Tan, Josh Thorpe, Gillian Vansciver and Timothy Williams.

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