May is a traditional time for recognizing academic milestones, such as completing high school or a college degree.
But four students at Salina Area Technical College are celebrating both this month.
Every year, a handful of Salina Tech students are able to complete the requirements of an Associate of Applied Science degree at the same time they finish high school, generally by enrolling in a technical program such as Welding Technology as a junior and as a senior and also completing at least 24 credit hours of college-level general education classes and electives, such as College Algebra, General Psychology and U.S. History.
“To be honest, I’m not a big fan of school, and I just wanted to get it done,” said Caden Isaacson, a senior at Southeast of Saline High School, who went through Salina Tech’s welding program during his junior and senior years. “It looks better to have an Associate degree, and it helps you get better jobs.”
It wasn’t always easy, Isaacson said.
“This fall semester, I was at Southeast in the mornings taking three college classes, then at Salina Tech in the afternoon for welding, then working on two online classes after I got home,” he said. “That tested my patience some – but now it’s done.”
Seth Timken said completing Salina Tech’s Computer Aided Drafting program and an additional 24 hours of college classes in two years also kept him busy.
“I just wanted to get the Associates degree, and now seemed like the best time to do it,” he said, adding that being home schooled meant his schedule had some flexibility.
The flexibility of home schooling was also helpful to Alex Braaten, who is graduating from the Construction Technology program.
“My parents suggested I should look at what I could do at Salina Tech, and I decided to take Construction and some other classes too,” he said. “I really like how it worked out for me, and I don’t really know yet what doors having the Associate degree will open.”
“Some of the classes I took were Technical Writing, Intro to Computer Apps and Interpersonal Communication, and those are helpful no matter what I end up doing,” he said.
Montgomery Hay went a step beyond most, completing the Welding Technology program as a junior and returning his senior year for Machine Tool Technology, and even squeezing in some summer classes between the regular semesters.
“I found a way to make it work,” Hay said. "Over the summer I would get off work and go home and do homework.”
He ended up with a total of three AAS degrees -- in Welding, Machining and Technical Studies.
The idea of taking the extra classes – such as English Comp I and Public Speaking – only really came up during his second semester in the welding program.
“The Associate degree is a nice bonus, but I didn’t do it for the degree,” he said. “I love learning new things – that’s the real reason.”
Being home schooled gave him the flexibility to complete both programs while in high school, saving him close to $20,000.
The State of Kansas’ Excel in CTE program pays for the tuition of high school students enrolled in technical programs; depending on the program, that saves a student and their family $7,000 to $10,000.
That program doesn’t pay for general education classes. Hay figures he’s spent about $2,000 total on two years of college.
“I should have my student loans paid off when I’m 20,” he said.