HS students can get college credits | Rep-Am

September 26, 2023

As published in the Republican American:


Courtesy of the Rep-Am: State Sen. Eric C. Berthel, R-Watertown, discusses Connecticut’s dual-credit program for high school students with Gov. Ned Lamont and Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell Tucker Tuesday at Central Connecticut State University. Steve Bigham Republican-American


A record number of Connecticut teenagers will now be eligible to earn their associate degree while still in high school, and at a fraction of the cost, as part of the state’s ever-expanding dual-enrollment program designed to give young people a head start on their secondary education.


Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday announced the awarding of nearly $4 million to 89 of Connecticut’s 200 school districts, funds to be used to expand existing dual-credit course offerings and foster stronger partnerships with higher-education institutions.


Lamont, who calls workforce development his highest priority, made the announcement at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.


Lamont said earning college credits, while still in high school, offers students a money-saving opportunity, while also exposing them to various career paths.


“It’s giving education a purpose. What we’re doing is making education real by allowing kids to get a head start,” Lamont said.


The grants are designed to target the more underserved districts where, for many families, the prospect of a college education may have previously been impossible, fostering intellectual growth, self-confidence and educational equity.


Among the school districts receiving grant money are Oxford, Watertown, and Waterbury school districts, although, state officials say, many other districts, who did not receive funds, do also offer dual-enrollment opportunities.


Department of Education Commissioner Charlene Russell Tucker said the grant money comes from federal COVID relief funds and is just the latest in the state’s overall plan to strengthen partnerships between government, local school districts, colleges and universities, as well as local business and industry, which offer internships and other mentoring programs.


Russell Tucker said high school students can take college courses for about $150 per credit, far less than what it would cost them once they are actually in college.


“Bottom line, dual credit is a terrific deal,” she said.


Currently, 24 % of Connecticut high schoolers already earn a minimum of three college credits, a figure that is expected to increase significantly.


“This truly is a year of infinite opportunities,” Russell Tucker said.


Among those already taking full advantage is Ansonia senior, Paul Palmer, who began taking dual-enrollment classes as a freshman, starting with “introduction to engineering,” and, to date, has earned a year and a half worth of college credits.


“I feel really prepared for college and I think this gave me a step forward, a step ahead of my classmates,” Palmer said. “Also, it saved a lot of money, which is my main focus.”


State Sen. Eric C. Berthel, R-Watertown, the ranking member of the Connecticut Education Committee, called Tuesday’s announcement an “amazing commitment the state is making to young people, especially the idea of introducing them to careers” and building a pipeline to Connecticut industry.


Berthel pointed to, as an example, the aviation industry in Connecticut, which is reporting a shortage of mechanics and pilots.


“Why are we not taking it to our high schools right now and bringing this forward. This huge investment is an investment in our public schools, but also in our youth,” Berthel said.


In 2018, Post University began offering Waterbury high school students the opportunity to take college courses through its High School Academy. Today, the program has grown to over 30 strategic educational partners in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas.


“Giving students access to college during high school benefits them academically, experientially, and financially,” said Chad McGuire, director of Post’s High School Academy. “A family can erase the financial burden of up to two years of college debt. The school district and state can now provide funding, not the parents.”