Houston Community College and Fort Bend ISD Discuss boosting partnership
‘Tis the season for graduation and the numbers don’t lie – Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) is a leader in the region for its high school graduation rate of close to 92 percent, and now the district has its sights set on boosting college readiness by teaming up with Houston Community College Southwest (HCC Southwest) to increase enrollment in its tuition-free dual-credit program.
Called College Now, it allows students of qualifying high schools to take college courses with free tuition. Students who pass the classes earn college-level credits, along with credit toward their high-school graduation making it a dual benefit.
Houston Community College Southwest’s President Dr. Fena Garza wasted no time meeting with new FBISD Superintendent of Schools Charles Dupre to foster the lines of communication between the district and college.
“We’re looking for opportunities to increase enrollment at our Missouri City and Stafford campuses by spreading the word about tuition-free, dual-credit courses while still in high school,” says Dr. Garza. “And our dual-credit core curriculum courses are transferable to any college or university in Texas.”
With a primary focus on high-school dual-credit programs, FBISD and HCC Southwest are working to inform the community about the requirements and advantages of enrolling in dual-credit courses that are taught at either the high schools or HCC Southwest campuses.
While all Fort Bend ISD high schools offer dual-credit courses, only schools within the HCC service area offer free tuition for those courses. The four qualifying high schools are Elkins, Marshall, Hightower and Willowridge. HCC Southwest currently offers those students a wide variety of core courses, such as English and history, as well as entrepreneurship, business, arts and audio-video production.
Superintendent Dupre, who assumed his duties in April, after the state-mandated waiting period, made college programs one of his first orders of business.
“Graduation is a major milestone for our students, and we owe it to those who will pursue post-secondary education to adequately prepare them,” says Dupre. “That’s why I’m pleased to be working with HCC Southwest to boost college enrollment through our tuition-free dual-credit program.”
Dupre adds that increasing enrollment in the dual-credit program will require the cooperation and support of all the district’s high school principals and counselors ─ something that he expects from all campuses.
“The dual-credit program is an amazing opportunity, and we want to continuously educate our students and parents about it,” says Barbara Whitaker, principal of Elkins High School. “Never do we want our students to miss out on the best deal for college ─ tuition-free credit hours.”
Dupre also wants to establish a Fort Bend Early College, a project that Dr. Garza says she would welcome HCC Southwest being a part of in the future. All five of Houston Community College’s Early College High Schools (ECHS) earned Exemplary ratings, and the Challenge ECHS at HCC Southwest received a Silver ranking as one of America’s Best High Schools.
Early Colleges are a partnership between school districts and colleges that offer a mixture of high-school and college classes so that students can obtain their high-school diploma and associate degree at the same time. It is different than dual-credit programs, where students from a traditional high school take college classes, but graduate from their own high school. At Early Colleges, students have fewer high-school classes because many of their college classes can replace their high-school course requirements.
Plans and discussions are preliminary, but should Dupre and his administration succeed in opening one, it would be the first Early College within Fort Bend ISD.
For more information about the requirements for FBISD’s dual-credit partnership with HCC Southwest, go to southwest.hccs.edu and connect on Facebook and Twitter.
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