AURORA — Jacqueline Nevarez knows attending the University of Denver next fall will be a pricey proposition. Even so, the Hinkley High School senior remains undaunted.
"Applying to Community College of Aurora was a goal, and I met that," she said. "Now, I'll meet my DU goal too."
Because of a decision Nevarez made in her freshman year at Hinkley to take classes concurrently at CCA, she'll have, as she says, "two years less stress."
When the 17-year-old graduates from Hinkley, she also will have earned an associate degree from CCA. That means when she starts school at DU, she'll be a junior.
Nevarez is one of 24,000 high schoolers across the state participating in Colorado's concurrent-enrollment program, in which students simultaneously take at least one postsecondary course along with their prep curriculum.
"I probably didn't know what I was getting myself into when I decided to do it," Nevarez said, "But I knew it was a great opportunity — who wouldn't like a jump-start?"
It seems more and more students are thinking that way. On Wednesday at Hinkley, the Department of Higher Education released its annual report for the 2011-12 school year. About 19 percent of Colorado high schoolers participated — up by more than 15 percent from a year earlier.
There were 304 high schools in the program last year, with 18 higher education institutions taking part. CCA had 2,722 participants, while Arapahoe Community College had 2,365. Among four-year schools, the University of Colorado Denver numbered 3,775 participants, while Colorado State University at Pueblo had more than 1,000.
Colorado colleges and universities aren't the only schools taking part. A junior at Hinkley is getting credit for an online algebra class he's taking at Stanford.
In presenting the report, Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia said white students comprised the majority of concurrent-enrollment students, at 54 percent. But there have been noticeable gains among American Indians (up 98 percent from a year ago), Hispanics (up 46 percent) and African-Americans (up 30 percent).
"In the past, these students were often overlooked as college students," Garcia said. "Now, they're the future, not only of the state, but of the entire country."
Overall, about 85 percent of dual-enrollment students go on to college, with analyses showing the participants are likely to have higher grade-point averages and to stay in school beyond their freshman year.