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Two CMS seniors graduate with college degrees despite the struggles of a pandemic

A few high schools in the Charlotte- Mecklenburg area offer the opportunity for students to get a college degree simultaneously with their diploma.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In tandem with their high school diploma, the number of students earning a college associate's degree is declining in North Carolina. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction reported the pandemic interrupted the rise of students earning both. 

A limited amount of high schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area offer the opportunity for students to get a college degree, simultaneously.

Think of how many classes you took in high school. Chances are Morgan Tuttle has you beat. 

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"A lot of kids don't know that I took the 17 classes, because it's like, trying to hide the fact that I was stressed about that," said Tuttle, a Levine Middle College High School senior. 

Levine Middle College High School is located on the Levine campus of Central Piedmont Community College, serving juniors on up.

Students complete their high school graduation requirements while taking CPCC courses towards an associate’s degree or another career or industry certification for free. 

"I can take the college classes, get my associate degree, so I can go in as a junior at my college," Tuttle said. 

The NC DPI says they’ve seen a 4% decrease in the number of students enrolled in programs aimed to get an associate's degree with a diploma. 

That’s a drop of thousands of students. 

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The pandemic caused some students to abandon the goal and others to not even attempt it. 

"It was a lot of anxiety, like just not knowing what was happening with COVID," said August Warren, also a Levine Middle College High School senior 

Warren successfully completed his college degree, and he said it’s one of the most challenging things he’s ever done. 

"I think now I realize that the best path isn't always one that everyone takes," he said. "I'm doing online classes and coming here and doing my associate degree, which is something less than 1,000 kids in the district do really taught me was what was good for me." 

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Tuttle said she’s going to take a step back after graduating. 

"I want the college experience since I missed out on my high school," she said. "So, I'm definitely not going to take as many -- like maybe three, four classes a semester." 

Despite this drop, the state is anticipating the number of students earning both will soon rise again. 

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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