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Program lets high school students take free college courses

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox recently announced the Elevate Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program, which will allow Tuscaloosa City Schools seniors to take college courses for free starting this summer.

The scholarship program is a part of Maddox’s Elevate Tuscaloosa initiative, a community investment project funded by a sales tax increase implemented in September 2019.

“This program is just part of our commitment to offering high quality learning opportunities,” Lesley Bruinton, TCS public relations coordinator and member of the Elevate Advisory Council, said.

To qualify for the program, students must attend a TCS high school for at least one year prior, live in the TCS residential zone, be classified as a senior, and meet the GPA requirement for the institution with which they take the dual enrollment class.

Students will be able to take up to six hours of college credit with tuition, fees and books covered by the scholarship. Classes will be available through Shelton State Community College, Stillman College and The University of Alabama.

General education courses that are transferable to other institutions and apply to most majors will be the focus of the program. A list of available courses has not been released yet.

The hope for the program is to open doors for families and students, Bruinton said, both for college and future careers. College tuition costs are continuing to rise, and the program will make college a financial reality for many families, according to the city of Tuscaloosa’s website.

Dr. Victoria Whitfield, director of UA Early College, The University of Alabama’s dual enrollment program, expects many families to take advantage of the opportunities for college credit and personal development.

“[Dual enrollment students] have an easier transition from high school to college, and their one-to-two-year college retention rates, as well as four-year graduation rates, are much higher,” Whitfield said.

Around 500 students in the class of 2021 are projected to be eligible for the program, 300 more than the estimated 200 students that took dual enrollment classes this year. There is no cap on the number of students that can participate.

Tuscaloosa resident Deborah Anders said she has already encouraged her niece, a high school junior, to participate in the program.

“My son took classes at Shelton State while he was in high school, and he was almost a year ahead everyone once he got to college,” Anders said. “I tell everyone they should do it, because there are so many benefits that can come out of something like that for the kids.”

Students are expected to start registering for courses in the coming weeks.


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