Two degrees are better than one for Lora Ortega and Gabe Heersink. They are among high-achieving high school students who received their Associates Degree from Adams State before their high school diploma. Ortega and Heersink are part of a rising trend of associate degree attainment among local high schoolers.

I am very excited to have earned my associates degree before graduating high school because it just shows how hard I worked throughout high school,” Ortega says.

Heersink shares the same sentiment, hard work pays off. “I pursued my associates to gain college level experience at a much lower cost.”  

Through concurrent enrollment San Luis Valley high school students take Adams State courses, which count as both college and high school credits.  Tuition is covered by the high school as long as students meet the requirements. It is also possible for credits to transfer to any public Colorado college or university through the Colorado Department of Higher Education guaranteed transfer curriculum, and some institutions outside those parameters may accept credits as well.

Ortega and Heersink, two Alamosa High School seniors, have more in common. Both were accepted to South Dakota School of Mines. Ortega will pursue a degree in biomedical engineering and Heersink in mechanical engineering. “Having my associates degree will assist me in reaching my future goals,” Heersink added. “I will not have to take as many courses to achieve the degree I desire, and move on to the field.”

Ortega was recruited to play golf for SD School of Mines. She also appreciates the benefits of moving to higher level courses sooner. “Having my associates will help to have more of a science background going into college.”

There are four different ways that high school students can take courses including on-campus, online, live-stream video (Zoom) or at their high school with an approved instructor. According to Renae Haslett, Extended Studies program director, 247 students were enrolled in concurrent classes this spring and four completed their associates degree. “We work with all 14 valley school districts though not all of them have students taking courses every semester.”