A new opportunity for students at Wheeling Park High School is typical of initiatives by educators at all levels to hold down the cost of obtaining a college degree.
Announced this week, a cooperative arrangement between West Liberty University and the Ohio County Board of Education will allow WPHS seniors with excellent academic records to get head starts on college. They will be permitted to be part of the Advanced Academy of West Virginia at WLU. Through it they will, in effect, be enrolled at both WPHS and WLU.
Students in the academy will be able to take classes at the university's Highlands Center. They will be earning college credit before they walk across the stage to accept their high school diplomas.
While it is true that in many careers, those with college degrees will earn much more than those who lack them, the cost of higher education is a barrier to many young people and their parents. Even for those who can manage to find ways to cover college tuition, fees and living expenses, heavy burdens of debt must be paid after graduation.
That has led many institutions of higher learning in our area to find ways college credit can be earned without going to campus. The cooperative program between WLU and Ohio County schools is an excellent example.
Other local institutions have similar programs. Wheeling Jesuit University allows students to register on a part-time basis after they finish their sophomore years of high school. West Virginia Northern Community College, like WLU, allows enrollment after the junior year.
Other tools used by local colleges and universities include acceptance of credit earned in high school advanced placement courses, along with formally acknowledging work experience and skills gained serving in the military.
Make no mistake about it: The local institutions do not relax their rigorous requirements for earning degrees. Stiff standards must be met by high school students wishing to start higher education early, and by those seeking credit for work or military experience. But by providing options for prospective students, local colleges and universities are doing them an invaluable service - and reducing the cost of higher education.