PTC Spring Graduate Describes Her Dual Enrollment Experience

Sibling motivation, a can-do attitude, the occasional pep talk – and Dual Enrollment at Piedmont Technical College – combined to give Ashley Smith a money-saving head start on her future.

“It’s not something to take lightly or think is easy,” she says, “but I’d have to say it’s the best decision I made in high school.”

Dual Enrollment is an advanced-credit program for high school juniors and seniors. Different classes are available online, at the student’s high school, or on the PTC campus. Dual Enrollment comes with a range of options. Some students are planning for advanced degrees. Others are seeking a credential that will allow them to begin a professional career as soon as they leave high school.

There are four ways to participate in Dual Enrollment at PTC:

•    Traditional Dual Enrollment courses are taken at a student’s high school with their high school instructors.
•    OnDECK classes are offered on a PTC campus and let students earn high school units and college credit at the same time.
•    PTC has partnered with some school districts on a Middle College that allows high school juniors and seniors the chance to earn up to 48 college credit hours.
•    Early admission is for students looking to earn credit through PTC, but not through their high school.

Smith participated through McCormick Middle College while attending McCormick High School. Middle College was virtual during her junior year of high school. She says she’s taken online courses, on-campus courses and courses in which she and her fellow students were in a classroom while an instructor participated remotely.

Over two years, Smith earned enough credits to receive an Associate in Arts degree from PTC along with her high school diploma. She was a commencement speaker at the college’s May 5 graduation.

“I plan to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia in the fall,” she says. “I plan to major in marketing. I’ve always wanted to do real estate as well.”

Smith also walked off the graduation stage with a University Studies certificate. The certificate is designed for students looking to transfer to another state institution and recognizes the completion of many of the introductory courses students must take at a four-year college.

“It’s helpful because everybody else has to come in and do the prerequisites,” she says. “I already have that finished. I can go straight into my major.”

Taking care of those courses early helps in another way. Smith says her family is not as financially blessed as some others. Dual Enrollment at PTC is designed to be affordable to all students. South Carolina residents attend tuition-free if they take at least 6 credit hours per semester (generally at least two classes) at their high school, on campus, or online.

“With us not having to pay for those other two years, it’s not as much money,” Smith says.

The Middle College program was launched in McCormick County in 2011. Smith says she was motivated to participate by her older sister, Tiffany Jones. Now she’s passing that encouragement along.

“The sophomores that are coming into Dual Enrollment have 100 questions,” Smith says. “The first question is, ‘How much work do you have to do?’ They ask us about how we’re feeling as well – if we’re stressed. ... I recommend it, but I tell them it’s not easy. You have to want it.”

Smith definitely wanted it, according to Tammy Haynes, PTC’s academic success coach for Dual Enrollment.

“She’s a go-getter. She’s very energetic,” Haynes says of Smith. “She came in with an idea she was going to do the program and was not going to give up.”

In turn, Smith credits Haynes and Tameika Wideman, director of Dual Enrollment at PTC, for their support.

“We could call them about anything, whether it was about a class or about how we were feeling,” she says.

Haynes says they try to keep students focused on their goals.

“They get the hug and they get to be heard, but they also get the academic push,” she says.

Dual Enrollment is available at high schools throughout the PTC footprint. Students should talk with a high school guidance counselor if they think Dual Enrollment might be right for them. Learn more online at or contact PTC’s Dual Enrollment Office at (864) 941-8315.