More students choosing dual enrollment to prevent college debt

VIENNA, IL — Imagine graduating high school and already having a college degree. That’s what five students from Vienna High School did.

“It took a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication, but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make,” said senior Asa Sparks.

Sparks said the motto for the Vienna High School senior class is “High school was like riding a bike except everything was on fire.”

“Having to have college and high school work together definitely makes things more challenging,” said Sparks.

With two graduations, two gowns and two diplomas, that hard work paid off for Sparks and classmate Jeremy Pietrowski.

Pietrowski said taking dual enrollment classes for college credit has become more popular among his classmates. “College is becoming more expensive, and people aren’t making that much money, so they would rather get that out the way for free,” said Pietrowski.

Vienna High School’s program is a result of a partnership with Shawnee Community College. Both said these are programs that we’ll see increasing statewide.

“We see that on an increase, and we expect other schools have talked about it, and they’re looking to see how they’re able to accomplish that goal,” said Shawnee Community College President Peggy Bradford.

“Student loan debt is plaguing our nation. It’s not acceptable. That shouldn’t be going on in our country. This program puts our students down the road with zero student loan debt right out of the shoot,” said Vienna High School Superintendent Josh Stafford.

Sparks and Pietrowski are both valedictorians. They planned to thank all the people who helped them achieve dual graduate status. They hope their hard work will encourage their classmates.

“My advice would be just keep pushing through, and that it would be worth it in the end game,” said Sparks.

Pietroski and Sparks are each graduating with 5.0 GPAs. The Vienna High School class of 2019 earned more than 2,000 college credit hours combined.