Tuscaloosa City School students will now be able to enroll in up to 12 hours of dual enrollment courses at The University of Alabama, Stillman College or Shelton State Community College for free–thanks to an expansion of the city’s ELEVATE scholarship program.
The expansion was announced during a press conference Thursday. Previously, up to 9 hours were paid for by the city through ELEVATE funds.
“Dual enrollment is having a real, positive impact in opening up the doors of higher education and removing the barriers of cost for our students,” said Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mike Daria. “We have students who did not think they were college material, who are excelling in dual enrollment and are the first generation in their families to attend college. That is made possible by ELEVATE, and we thank the city of Tuscaloosa for their support in this important program.”
The City of Tuscaloosa created the ELEVATE scholarship in early 2020, and the scholarship has expanded since, to include 10th, 11th and 12th graders, who can now take up to 12 credit hours at no cost. The program also covers books and fees. Classes can be offered either virtually or in person, and summer dual enrollment courses are also an option.
In its first three years, the ELEVATE Dual Enrollment Scholarship supported 795 students in earning a total of 3,470 college credit hours for students in the 2021, 2022, and 2023 graduation cohorts. Of those students, 53.4% were first-time dual enrollment students. Approximately 611 TCS students are currently participating in the ELEVATE Dual Enrollment Scholarship program.
“When we passed Elevate Tuscaloosa, one of the pledges we made to this community was to help our young people get a head start on their college- or career-readiness, without their family having to sacrifice other pieces of their life,” Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said. “Increasing the available dual enrollment credits paid for by ELEVATE Tuscaloosa from 9 to 12 hours per student is another major step in accomplishing that goal. I want to thank the leadership of the Tuscaloosa City Schools and our higher education community for the success that this partnership has created, and also for the lasting impact that this program has and will have on our community for future generations.”
On Thursday, Shelton State announced they would continue their matching program, which means that the institution will match any hours that a TCS student receives through ELEVATE at Shelton State. If a TCS student obtains 12 hours of dual enrollment through ELEVATE at Shelton State while they are in high school, if they attend SSCC immediately after high school graduation, they will receive another 12 hours of courses at no cost–meaning the student can ultimately get a full year, or 24 hours of course credits at Shelton State, free.
“That is up to 24 hours at no cost, just by being a student in the Tuscaloosa City Schools,” Superintendent. Mike Daria said. “This is access at its best. When we give our students access, we give them opportunity. We could not be more excited to partner with the city of Tuscaloosa and Shelton State to do this work.”
Students like Harmony King from Paul W. Bryant High School have benefitted from the ELEVATE dual enrollment program. King has taken 33 hours of dual enrollment, gaining credits at both Stillman College and Shelton State, which helped her knock out a year of college before she even graduates high school. She wants to go on to study criminal justice in college to become a prosecutor, she said.
“I think dual enrollment is a good option, especially if you are going into a field that requires multiple degrees,” King said. “Taking college courses can be stressful, and I’m also an athlete, so I have had to be on a schedule and it’s helped me with my time management skills.”
Northridge High School senior Bailey Weatherly has taken 27 hours of courses from UA and Shelton State. She said she plans to continue her studies in nursing.
“For kids to have an opportunity to take classes like this and get a head start is really great, because college is expensive,” Weatherly said. “The path I’m taking through Shelton, I’m pretty much half way done with college and I’m still in high school.”