Last month, I invited Dr. Jeremy Raff, our coordinator of college & career services, to call for reforms that could help low-income, first-generation college students be more successful pursuing higher education. Today, I want to share one key strategy of ours to help these students—dual enrollment—and how you can help.
I have spoken about dual enrollment often over the past several years. “Dual enrollment” is a course in which a high school student earns both high school credit toward a diploma and college credits they can apply toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Students can take some dual enrollment courses at McCaskey, taught by SDoL teachers. For others, they travel to local colleges, like Millersville and Thaddeus Stevens. Most dual enrollment credits are transferable at nearly any institution of higher education. Students do not need to pass a high-stakes test to earn the credit (like AP courses), they only need to successfully complete the course.
The first benefit is financial. According to StudentLoanHero.com, the average cost per credit hour for colleges across every sector is about $594. By taking college credits in high school, students can save thousands of dollars on tuition in college. The second benefit is experiential. Taking college-level courses in high school prepares students for the rigor of college and shows them that they can be successful.
These reasons are why the School District of Lancaster is committed to dual enrollment experiences at no charge to students. We offer courses from Elizabethtown College, HACC, Millersville University, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design and Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, among others. We also pay for students in Thaddeus Stevens College’s early enrollment program, in which they complete their entire freshman year at the highly-rated technical college as seniors in high school.
The number of McCaskey students enrolled in dual enrollment courses has grown from 22 in 2015-2016 to nearly 350 today. The upshot is higher costs for our district. We anticipate spending more than $115,000 in tuition this school year. But we believe in the investment: This represents more than a quarter-million dollars in credit value to our students.
You can help. The Lancaster Education Foundation has committed to raising $100,000 a year to support this essential program. As you consider your charitable giving for 2020, I hope you will include LEF.
Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy and enriching 2020!