Md. to spend $2 million to expose high school students to college-level courses

Maryland has allocated $2 million to help fund programs throughout the state that will allow students to take high school and college courses at the same time, Gov. Martin O’Malley said while taking a tour at the Academy of Health Science at Prince George’s Community College on Wednesday.

The dual-enrollment program offered at Prince George’s Community College, which is finishing its second year, is currently the only one in Maryland.

The money for the expansion effort is part of the O’Malley administration’s Early College Innovation Fund, which was passed during the recent legislative session.

“There should be one in every county community college, at the minimum,” said O’Malley, who was joined by a handful of local state lawmakers. “If you are successful with this, it will become a ripple effect in the rest of the state.”

The Prince George’s program, which was created to provide parents with educational options and to expose students to college-level work, has been operating for two years. It is a joint venture between the school system and the community college.

When the students graduate from the academy, they receive a high school degree and an associate’s degree from the college.

“This program is about expanding opportunity and exposure,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who joined O’Malley on the tour. “I want to see more students in our schools exposed to opportunities like this.”

Unlike many dual enrollment programs in which students remain in their high schools and college professors come to their classrooms, the students in Prince George’s go to the college campus.

The middle college or early college program began in 1974 at LaGuardia Community College in New York City, offering under-served high school students a college experience. After the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated more than $13 million toward the idea, the initiative began to take root.

Today, about 50 schools belong to the consortium, all of which make a commitment to serve some first-generation college students and students from low-income families. The Prince George’s County school board has spent more than $2 million over the last two years.

At the Academy of Health Sciences, 50 percent of the students are either first-generation college students or come from low-income families.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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