A dual enrollment partnership between Frederick County Public Schools and Frederick Community College is steadily growing.
The number of FCPS high school students participating in the dual enrollment program is currently higher than the number of students taking advanced placement classes, Beth Duffy, executive director of dual enrollment at FCC, told the Frederick County Board of Education and Frederick Community College Board of Trustees during a joint meeting Wednesday. Frederick County also continues to outpace the rest of the state in terms of participation, Duffy said.
“We have been growing steadily since we began this partnership... I am very gratified at the response, and I think it speaks to how well and how strongly we work together,” Duffy said.
The program has seen an uptick in the number of minority students who participate in the program, but there’s been a decrease from last year in the number of special education students.
Diana Sung, coordinator of dual enrollment for FCPS, said they are continuing to work on expanding equity and access to courses and enrollment in the program.
Through dual enrollment, students are able to earn college credit while they are still in high school. The program offers a number of ways to earn credits that they can then transfer to a higher education institution upon graduation from FCPS.
There are 99 college-credit level classes taught by FCPS teachers at high schools across the school system, and students can take advantage of the “open campus” that allows them to take courses that are taught by FCC professors on campus or online.
As of this fall, there are 1,222 FCPS students taking high-school based dual enrollment courses and 295 students participating in the open campus option.
Students receive a discounted tuition rate on the FCC courses they take as a Dual Enrollment student. Last year that equated to about $1 million in savings for students who participated, compared to what those students would have paid had they simply waited to begin taking FCC courses after graduation, according to Sung.
“Something that is pretty important about this program is that it represents, for Frederick County families, a very significant cost savings. We know that higher education is a big concern for many families and their budget,” Sung said.
The two boards were also given an update about a new program starting called early college. Through this program, FCPS high school students would be able to earn their high school diploma and an associate’s degree from FCC simultaneously.
This summer, the program just accepted its first 23 students from nine high schools. Students went through an application and interview process.
Twelve of the 23 accepted students identify with at least one underrepresented group such as students of color or students who qualify for free and reduced meals.
The students have declared 11 different majors, and 12 students are enrolled in a STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — program.
“What makes our early college very unique compared to the other early college programs in the state of Maryland is that we offer a lot of different majors,” said Andrew McClain, dual enrollment specialist at FCC. “The other community colleges across the state have kind of narrowed down the scope to either STEM or certain programs, but our students have the choice of the many majors at FCC.”
There is another program called career pathways being piloted at Frederick High School this year. This specific dual enrollment program allows high school students to earn industry certifications or credentials at FCC.
Five Frederick High students are participating. Four are on track to become certified nursing assistants and/or certified geriatric nursing students, and one is completing certification to become a dental assistant.
FCC Trustee April Miller asked if course offerings at the high schools are the same across the system. Sung said every high school offers introductory courses in English and math, but then course offerings begin to vary based on the size of the school and what teachers are certified and available to teach the courses.
Miller also asked if students had run into problems trying to transfer credits to institutions other than FCC.
McClain said most public colleges and universities accept the credits, but students might have minimal trouble with private institutions. McClain also said they encourage students to do research before applying to or choosing schools.
“Whenever we speak to students, we always say that if you have a school in mind ,research that school, talk to that school, and see what kinds of restrictions they have against courses that they either take in high school or take inside of a high school building,” McClain said. “It’s definitely getting better in terms of transferability.”