Maya Douglas of Clinton is a senior at Oxon Hill High School, but this spring, she’ll also be a student at Prince George’s Community College, paid for through the county school system’s dual enrollment program.
“I decided to enter dual enrollment because I wanted to get a kick-start on my college career,” said Douglas, who is planning on taking introductory college-level English and math courses at the college.
Douglas is among numerous Prince George’s students taking advantage of the College Readiness and Completion Act of 2013. As a result of the state legislation that took effect last year, qualified public school juniors and seniors are able to take college classes while in high school, with the school system paying tuition.
The school system has operated a dual enrollment program with Prince George’s Community College for two years, but this is the first year the school system is covering tuition.
Approximately 60 students had enrolled in the program as of Jan. 16, according to school system officials.
“Students could previously take any courses that were approved, but they had to pay,” said school system spokesman Max Pugh.
To qualify, county students must be at least 16 years old, maintain a minimum GPA of 2.5 and meet other qualifications set by the college.
The school system will also pay all fees and textbook expenses for students who qualify for assistance based on their family’s income, said Tamika Tasby, the school system’s graduation specialist.
Students may be required to reimburse 90 percent of the tuition if they drop out of a course or receive a failing grade.
Mark F. Smith, senior policy analyst for higher education for the National Educators Association, said the number of students taking dual enrollment courses has increased from 800,000 in the 2002-2003 school year to 1.3 million in 2010-2011.
“I think with the changes in the economy and with post secondary education becoming increasingly important for entry into the job market, you’re going to see students increasingly taking college credit courses in high school,” Smith said.
Adam Lowe, executive director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, said there are a number of benefits to dual enrollment, including reducing the cost of college and the time it takes to graduate, as well as helping students prepare for college life.
There are risks, however. Lowe said a failing grade in a dual enrollment class will appear on a student’s transcript and may affect financial aid.
“It is incumbent upon school guidance counselors and institutions of higher learning to ensure that students are fully prepared for college courses,” Lowe said.