CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Who says you need to graduate from high school before getting your college degree?
Dozens of students in an 11-county region in the Coastal Bend who take part in Del Mar College's dual credit program are doing just that.
One of them, Veterans Memorial High School senior E.R. Jacob Dedase, will walk the stage at Del Mar next week — two weeks before doing so at VMHS.
“A lot of people are taking dual credit classes, and they’re participating in the program," he said. "But I don’t know anybody else that's graduating with the full 60-hours and earning a degree from Del Mar and graduating from Veterans Memorial.”
Dedase was able to complete those basic college courses while in high school by spreading them over the semesters and summer sessions since his freshman year.
The associates degree he earned by doing that is giving him a two year head start towards his career goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist.
“I want to continue with Del Mar, because obviously it’s going to save a lot of money and time," Dedase said. "And then once I receive an associates degree in nursing, I want to transfer somewhere."
The director of Del Mar College's dual credit program, Robert Montez, estimates that a year of tuition at the average university costs students around $9,000.
He says at Del Mar it's $33.33 per credit hour which Montez says equals out to $800 for a year's worth of classes.
“It lessens the costs, it gets students into industry a lot faster, and they can start in their careers as soon as they can,” he said.
Montez says the local economy also benefits from those trained students quickly getting into the workforce.
And there are lots of them.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Del Mar College had around 3,000 dual credit students enrolled every semester.
Montez says that figure dipped by two or three hundred students, but are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“It’s a great program," he said. "We encourage everyone to come out and at least try it — see what it’s like."
It's safe to say Dedase is satisfied with his experience with Del Mar College, but continuing his education there means the star football player will have to bring his playing days to an end.
Whether life as an athlete would have been prosperous for him, he doesn't know.
What Dedase does know is that he's well on his way to a life in medicine.
“The football path just wasn’t the way that I wanted to choose," he said. "But I’m really happy with the decisions that I’ve made.”