Lenna Applebee, the assistant dean of Brenau Academy, said joint enrollment "has significantly increased" since she started two years ago. Of the 20 rising seniors at Brenau Academy, Applebee said all but four will take at least one college course.
"Brenau Academy is part of the university, so it’s the same institution, so it makes joint enrollment seamless. I’m sure there are probably more hoops to jump through with public school," Applebee said.
Applebee said many factors besides the competitive college circuit influenced the joint enrollment jump, including a new HOPE scholarship policy enacted in 2007. HOPE, a scholarship program offered to incoming Georgia college students based on merit, is funded by the state lottery and run by the Georgia Student Finance Commission.
The policy change removed the ability to add weight to honors grades when calculating a student’s final GPA for submission to the HOPE scholarship program. This practice, Applebee said "was pumping up grades. Now, we submit everything in a raw data format and it comes back to us (from the finance commission)," Applebee said.
With another potential resume-booster gone, two of the best ways to showcase a student’s ability to perform at the college level are by taking Advanced Placement courses at their high school or by enrolling in college courses.
Applebee said Brenau Academy does not offer Advanced Placement courses to students. However, she added that she thinks taking college courses offers an edge over AP courses because "it shows students can handle the college experience" as well as the class difficulty.
Admissions officer Jonathan Cueva of North Georgia College & State University said he has seen an increase in joint enrollment applicants.
"Over the last two years, we have raised the standards of the university," Cueva said. "We’re more competitive now. We definitely want to stay in that track."
Cueva said computer data revealed that applications for joint enrollment to NGCSU increased 135 percent within the past few years, from 15 applications in 2005 to 35 applications in 2008.
Sometimes, high schoolers apply for joint enrollment because they want to get a head start on taking courses in their intended college majors, Cueva said, which allows them to get core classes out of the way.
Cueva added that high school students increasingly take the college courses to make them more competitive college applicants.
Taking the college course is just the first step, however. As a recruiter, Cueva said he also looks at how students end up performing in the course.
"It’s a huge jump between college and high school," Cueva said.
"But if a student has college classes out of the way and has that experience, they definitely have an advantage."