Since 2017, families have collectively saved $22 million in college tuition and fees through dual credit partnerships between local school districts and Texas Southmost College, according to the college.
Dual credit courses are those that students take that count for both high school and college credit. Students may attend these classes either at their high schools or on a college campus. From fall 2017 through fall 2020, Lower Rio Grande Valley students have enrolled in 137,004 semester credit hours. Because of this, students are also able to complete a degree more quickly and can enter the workforce earlier.
“Dual credit programs are an important pathway to earning college credit that TSC offers to our communities in Cameron and Willacy Counties,” said TSC President Jesús Roberto Rodríguez. “We appreciate the trust our superintendents and school district boards have put in Texas Southmost College to provide their students with high-quality transfer courses.”
An Increasing Jump Start
Merrill Hammons is the BISD director for College, Career and Military Readiness and Advanced Academics. He applauds TSC on the work it is doing to give his students this opportunity.
“Many of our students come from low socioeconomic families and are first-generation college students, so exposing them to college early through dual enrollment is a large cost savings for them and their families and gives them the tools they need to work toward a higher education after high school,” said Hammons. “The number of students we have seen enroll in dual enrollment has increased substantially and we’re excited to continue this partnership and work together to give our students an easy transition into college.”
According to Hammons, the number of BISD students who enroll annually in dual credit courses has increased by 5,000 students in the last five years. The district is also on track to see a continuation in increases.
“We continue to expand our dual credit offerings with school districts based on their students’ interests,” said TSC Vice President for Instruction Joanna Kile. “For example, when our school districts asked for more course sections in economics, we added another economics instructor to our faculty to be able to meet this need.”
The Beginning of Success
In June 2020, TSC celebrated the first dual enrollment students to earn associate degrees since 2013. More than 30 students from the Brownsville Independent School District, Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District and Jubilee Leadership Academy earned associate degrees in General Studies. These credits will transfer to more specific programs such as business or criminal justice at a university.
LFCISD Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar said the partnership between TSC and LFCISD is a point of pride for the district. He also states dual enrollment is a mechanism for transformation.
“Education holds a promise of forging a brighter future and I feel dual enrollment credit is the embodiment of that promise,” said Salazar. “It is both a short-term and long-term reward for students who choose to enroll in courses with a level of rigor that prepares them for their post-secondary experience. Education is a great equalizer and dual enrollment students, regardless of their economic background, can look to the future with hope knowing that their success will be equal to their effort.”