UD to provide free college courses for high school students

NEWARK — High school students statewide can get a leg up on their college studies through a new University of Delaware program rolling out this fall.

“It’s been in the works for quite a while now,” said Lynn Okagaki, deputy provost for academic affairs at the university.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how we could create a dual enrollment program that would really facilitate access for students and be able to serve students all across the state, particularly in southern Delaware where we don’t have as many opportunities down there.”

The Early College Credit Program will be free and open to juniors and seniors in all 74 public, charter and private high schools throughout the state.

The introductory courses — which will be in subjects such as astronomy, philosophy, art history and more — will be transmitted via video from UD’s Newark campus and streamed to the students’ high schools. The high school students will be enrolled alongside college students.

“One of the things we are excited about with this new program is that high school students have the opportunity to interact with regular undergraduates on campus, virtually. This will give them a real college experience,” Dr. Okagaki added.

Participation in courses will allow students to earn both high school and college credits. Officials said the courses “are being designed to use open educational resources as much as possible to eliminate or reduce the costs for textbooks and other class materials.”

Dr. Okagaki said that because faculty members are teaching a regular class on campus with undergraduate students, there’s no additional instructional cost, which allows for the program to be free.

The university plans to offer five courses each year, and students can take up to all five. The credits satisfy the university’s general education requirements and could potentially be transferred to other universities or colleges.

As the program grows, Dr. Okagaki said that the university plans to offer more general education courses, such as pre-calculus or calculus.

“This innovative program will put our great faculty into high school classrooms across the state, teaching introductory college-level material to Delaware’s motivated high school students,” UD President Dennis Assanis said in a prepared statement.

“These students will have an unparalleled opportunity to experience college-level academics, interact virtually with undergraduates on our Newark campus and earn free academic credit that will help lower the cost of their education. This program is a substantive addition to the university’s ongoing efforts to increase affordability and access to higher education for residents of the First State.”

“I am excited that this dual enrollment program will make college courses more accessible and affordable to Delaware high school students,” Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said in a prepared statement. “This is the kind of innovative partnership between higher education and K12 schools that our students need.”

The university will be capping the amount of students and schools that can participate in the first year, but with the current technology, Dr. Okagaki said that the program can serve about 300 students. If the demand is greater than that, the university can scale up, she said.

To enroll in the classes, students will need the recommendation of a high school official, who will coordinate registration with the university through its Division of Professional and Continuing Studies, officials said.

Officials said that interested students should have:

• a high school grade-point average of 3.6 or above; or

• a minimum SAT or PSAT score of 600 verbal and 600 math; or

• successful completion of and solid grades in rigorous high school classes, such as Advanced Placement, Honors or International Baccalaureate classes.

Participating high schools will be responsible for providing:

• a cooperating professional to serve as the on-site coordinator for each UD class;

• a classroom or meeting room suitable for web conferencing the class; and

• academic assistance to students who may struggle in a class, working in conjunction with the UD faculty member and a UD teaching assistant.