The average Florida Gulf Coast University student might not even know that they’re sharing a classroom with 16-year-old high school students, but the Accelerated Collegiate Experience (ACE) Program has only grown since it was first announced.
The goal of the program is to allow high school students to earn free college credit while also obtaining the classes they need to graduate from high school. They want students to blend in and get the full college experience, meaning they get no special treatment. They can do part time or full time when they’re a part of the ACE Program.
Baylee Wolfendale, registered at Riverdale High School, is a part of the ACE Program so she doesn’t have to attend high school.
“I wanted to have a few college credits under my belt when I get my high school diploma and also to be somewhat prepared for what college is like,” Wolfendale said
“I would highly recommend dual enrollment to other students as it will save them (and) their parents a lot of time and money,” said Erin McQueary is also an ACE Program student.
The district pays for the classes and textbooks for students in the dual- enrollment program. Along with the financial perks, the programs don’t take away any extracurricular activities such as playing on a sports team. If the student wants to make the commitment and his or her class schedules allow it, they can play for their high school teams. Joining clubs or being involved on the college campus is encouraged because it’s just another way to make the transition between high school and college easier.
Many high-school students argue that AP classes seem like a more logical route, but Wolfendale disagrees. “It’s a lot better than taking AP classes because in dual enrollment you are guaranteed a college credit and you don’t have to shape your entire class around a single big test at the end of the year,” she said.
Whether you’re entering college after graduation or you’re a junior in high school, it’s a big change. Just as with normal incoming freshmen, there are mixed emotions for the dual-enrollment students. Wolfendale said she was terrified of the workload and what college had to offer.
“Eventually, I learned how to manage my time and I really started to enjoy FGCU,” Wolfendale said. “By the end of the semester I was absolutely in love with college and didn’t want to go back to high school.”
On the other hand, McQueary felt completely comfortable from the start.
FGCU offers a special scholarship to ACE students who decide to finish off their academic career as an Eagle. The college will grant $2,000 per year for three years upon completion of the ACE Program. This means that all ACE requirements had to be met including a cumulative FGCU GPA of 3.0 or more, and the student must be recommended by the ACE director.
Neither student plans to attend FGCU after they graduate because they simply want to leave Fort Myers. McQueary plans to go out of state while Wolfendale is aiming for the University of Florida or Florida State. They both had no complaints about their time spent at FGCU.
Dual enrollment is offered at FGCU as well as Florida SouthWestern State College, but the ACE Program is only offered to students here at FGCU. As long as FGCUy continues to grow, the programs should follow the growing trend.