Students from the Tempe Union High School District cannot only earn their high school diploma while in school, but also an associate’s degree.

Through a program with Rio Salado College, about 130 students from Tempe Union are on track to receive their associate’s degrees and high school diplomas next May.

“This is huge because they can earn the degrees on their own campuses,” said E.J. Anderson, director of community partnerships at Rio Salado.

Though the Tempe-based college has been offering dual enrollment classes for high school students since 1987, their focus recently has been to offer classes right in student’s home schools.

With Tempe Union being one of the first districts in the state to join, Desert Vista High School is now the host of the biggest program for dual enrollment.

“This is the first time (students) would have the ability to earn an associate’s degree in all but one classes on their own campus,” Anderson said. “That is what’s amazing.”

Mountain Pointe High School has about 33 juniors who are on track to earning both degrees next year, with Corona del Sol High School trailing behind with 30 students.

The program for dual enrollment is essentially college-credit courses taught at the high schools by faculty.

Most students in the program take an average of three to four dual enrollment courses a semester, according to Anderson.

Also considered a cost savings, the prices of the courses at the high school sites are the same as the community colleges, however, textbooks are included.

“When you experience that rigor in high school, you are better prepared for college,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, some national trends have shown that students who are involved in a dual enrollment program are 2.2 times more likely to go on to a university and 1.7 times more likely to compete their college degree.

For school registrar and assistant principal of academics at Mountain Pointe, Mary Keller, the program makes all the difference.

“We are very proud of the fact that we have a lot of students involved,” she said. “There’s a wide variety that actually realize the benefits of the program and challenge themselves.”

For more information about the dual enrollment program with Tempe Union and Rio Salado, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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