Students at Newfield High School are able to take advantage of 16 free college-level courses taught on the high school campus by Newfield educators.
In the past, students have been able to supplement these classes by taking State University of New York (SUNY) online courses for free because the school district picked up the tab. Last year, five of the 40 students in the Newfield graduating class received associate degrees by the time they graduated, and this school year five more seniors are on track to do the same, said Newfield High School Principal Patrick Mahunik.
Now students are required to pay some of the tuition for the online courses out-of-pocket.
The out-of-pocket cost per course (which are usually three credits) is $275, roughly half of the full cost of the class, according to Newfield High School Guidance Counselor Rick Pawlewicz. The school district is contributing the same amount per course as it did last year—the difference is that New York State is charging more this year.
This is due to a relatively recently enacted change in policy at the state level. “For a long time the [high school] kids had a great deal,” Mahunik said. “They paid not by the credit hour but by the course, and this year they have to pay by the credit hour.”
The logical explanation for the new rules is that it was determined that high school students should not be receiving the same online courses for less money than a SUNY college student, Mahunik explained.
“Their [college] kids were paying full tuition, and the high school kids weren’t,” he said, being sure to point out that the system can still be very advantageous for Newfield students.
“It’s still a pretty good deal to, out of high school, have an associates degree for a relatively low cost,” Mahunik said.
To complete their associates degree, students need to take 60 credit hours, which equals about 20 courses. At the high school, students can avail themselves of free advanced classes in a wide variety of subjects in order to meet that requirement, including four math classes, chemistry 101, an introductory psychology course, English, public speaking, Spanish, and more. “They’ve got a bit of everything to hit a lot of general education requirements,” Mahunik said, adding that the credits transfer to SUNY schools and most private universities.
“If [the credits] don’t transfer, the students are likely to be very successful in that class because they were already exposed to the content,” Mahunik pointed out.
Pawlewicz agrees that it is an excellent opportunity for Newfield’s students. “Any time a student has the opportunity to engage in a rigorous curriculum and work through the process and increase their own outlook on their abilities, it makes a difference in whether they believe or not that they can be successful at a secondary level,” he said. The only caveat: there are not enough college level courses being taught in Newfield for a student to receive an associates degree without supplemental online courses.
Pawlewicz added that the school district and board of education have been very supportive of the college programming. “We’ve been assured that it is something they want to continue,” he said.
This is reassuring to hear, he said, adding that it could require some creative planning in the district’s budget, especially given that graduating class size is expected to increase to 80 students in the coming years as classes with higher enrollment get older.
Pawlewicz hopes to develop solutions for students who cannot afford the tuition for online courses.
“I would hate to see [the expense] be a barrier,” Pawlewicz said.