Dual enrollment in high school allows students to discover if college-level courses are right for them. Officials at Virginia Peninsula Community College and the College of William & Mary have taken that concept one step further, where up to 15 VPCC students can be co-enrolled at W&M each year to see if the second oldest college in the country will be part of their future.
“It’s a really, really neat program for them,” said Nicole Currier, VPCC’s dean of Arts, Business, Humanities & Social Sciences, noting students who successfully complete courses and meet certain criteria through the program are offered guaranteed admission into W&M.
Currier, who joined the College in July, has taken the program reins from Tom Rockson. She works with Monica Pinier, senior assistant dean of admissions at W&M. Pinier used to work at VPCC.
“I think it just offers a really unique opportunity to get the support systems from both institutions,” Pinier said.
One of the students enrolled in the program this academic year is Alexia Parker, who is in her second year at VPCC but her first in the co-enrollment program.
“It is really good, especially if you want to get used to seeing how colleges work, because the workload is completely different,” she said. “It is nice to experience an actual four-year college.”
She was a dual enrollment student in high school, but co-enrollment at W&M is much different, she said.
While less than a month into the program, Parker enjoys being on a campus filled with events and activities. She was a little intimidated at first but quickly started to settle in.
“You're surrounded by people who already know what they're doing,” she said. “On my first day, I had to walk around the campus before my classes started to know where they were.”
Her first two weeks at W&M were shorter than normal because they didn’t have Monday classes. Then, she got Covid and missed some classes.
“It has gotten easier,” she said. “You get into a routine of walking from place to place and figure out where you need to go. You just build a daily routine. You get into a flow so it's not as intimidating.”
Her VPCC classes are online, so she doesn’t have to be on campus. At W&M, all undergrads in the fall and spring semesters must take classes in-person. That was just fine for Parker.
“I also wanted to do (at least) one of my classes in-person for the experience, because it’s the whole point of me doing a program,” she said.
Pinier agreed, saying being on campus allows students to see the charm of W&M.
“There’s a lot to be said when you’re walking through the campus,” she said. “I definitely see the value and the purpose of having them come to campus.”
Parker grew up in Williamsburg and graduated from Lafayette High School in 2022. She’s on pace to earn her associate degree from VPCC in spring 2024, and after two semesters in co-enrollment, she hopes to be a full-fledged W&M student next fall. She will major in business, and should have two years of schooling left.
Attending W&M has been a longtime goal for Parker, who said attending VPCC first was a better choice academically and financially because coming out of high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study.
“I didn’t want to go to a four-year college and spend all of that money and all of these resources just to not like what I studied,” she said. “I knew I was going to go to (VPCC) because I knew it was a safer route – a more financially responsible choice.”
The co-enrollment program, which she learned about her second semester at VPCC, had other advantages.
One is how focused you must be on academics at W&M.
“It's a lot of reading. It's a lot heavier workload,” she said. “Next semester, I’m going to be taking a lot of math courses, so I really wanted to get used to how the workload is different.”
And she saved even more money because as a co-enrolled student, she pays VPCC tuition rates, not W&M rates.
Pinier noted W&M accepts grants, including Pell grants, the VPCC students have earned.
“If they’re receiving financial aid, (W&M) will cover it,” she said.
The co-enrollment program between VPCC and W&M started more than 10 years ago, and the latter has no similar agreements with any other Virginia Community College System (VCCS) institution. However, not everyone who has participated has gone on to W&M.
“That’s OK,” said Pinier, who estimates about 60% of program participants end up at W&M. “I think that’s another benefit. Of course, I hope students do fall in love with William & Mary, but at least they have the opportunity to explore it and decide for themselves.”
Those in the program technically are VPCC students but receive all the benefits available to other W&M undergrads.
“They get their own student ID card and have access to W&M tutoring, libraries, anything on campus that a regular on-campus student would be using,” Pinier said, adding they even receive priority registration.
Traditionally, the co-enrollment students are accepted every fall. However, starting with the spring 2024 semester, there will be two cohorts every year.
“That’s an exciting change that’s coming up,” said Pinier, noting the reason behind it is community college students don’t always start in the fall. “I’d hate for them to miss out just because they’re on the wrong semester start.”
Currier and her staff decide which VPCC students get accepted into the program. Pinier and her colleagues at W&M help with the transition, including paperwork and the admissions process.
“I’d really like to raise the profile of this program,” Currier said.
Among the requirements for the co-enrollment program are:
- The student must be enrolled in a transfer Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree program at VPCC, excluding the Associate of Science in general studies;
- The student must complete at least 15 credit hours of general education courses toward their VPCC associate degree, with the course work being completed at the College following their graduation from high school;
- The student must have at least a 3.5 GPA in those VPCC classes.
For guaranteed admission to W&M through the program, the requirements include:
- Remaining continuously enrolled at VPCC until receiving the associate degree;
- Earning a VPCC degree within the past three years of transferring to W&M;
- Earning at least 45 of the credit hours required for the associate degree through the VCCS since graduation from high school; credit hours earned at W&M during co-enrollment will be included in this total;
- Completing at least four courses, each carrying three or four credit hours, at W&M, with a grade point average of not less than 2.7 (on a 4.0 scale) in those courses;
- Having a cumulative grade point average of not less than 2.7 (on a 4.0 scale) at VPCC.
Currier is extremely pleased about the collaboration with W&M.
“I think it’s a great program, and I want to get students to take advantage of it,” she said. “I can’t see why people wouldn’t. … It’s a fabulous opportunity.”
Parker agrees, and recommends applying.
“Even if it doesn't end up working out, the experience is better. The experience is worth it,” she said.
For more information on the program, visit VPCC Co-Enrollment Program.