TAMPA, Fla. - As college tuition continues to rise, parents and students wonder how to afford a college education.
More and more high school students are taking advantage of a program that allows them to go to college for free while attending high school, but some colleges are thinking of cutting back the dual enrollment program due to a lack of funding.
According to the Department of Education, more than 35,000 students took part in the program and, last year, that number jumped to more than 50,000.
The dual enrollment program cost Hillsborough Community College one million dollars in 2010-2011 and St. Petersburg College lost out more than $600,000.
While many colleges across the state, including St. Petersburg College, are considering limiting the number of classes high school students can take, HCC is doing the opposite.
Before graduating from Lennard High School, Saika Viard started her college career at Hillsborough Community College. "I wanted to get a head start and boost my GPA," she says.
She also saves money. The dual enrollment program allowed Saika to take college courses while in high school. She earned six credits and saved $600 in just tuition. The school district paid for the textbooks.
Saika says, "It was important for my family. We have financial issues. That's why I did dual enrollment."
Lennard High School guidance counselor Mariam Diaz says, "Dual enrollment allows the student to take college level classes and earn credit at the same time simultaneously, and by the time they graduate high school they can earn 30 credits."
Thirty credits equals 10 college classes and $3,000 in tuition saved. A student must have a 3.0 GPA to qualify for the program and is limited to nine credits each semester, including over the summer. While some community colleges are thinking of cutting back, HCC and the Hillsborough school district are offering more dual enrollment opportunities to students.
"We believe in it. We believe it's the best thing students can do with the economy the way it is," says Judith Nolasco, dean of Academic Affairs at HCC SouthShore campus.
HCC officials say they are partnering with the Hillsborough School District to start two more dual enrollment academies modeled after the one at Lennard High School. The schools would open at Leto and Armwood High School in about a year.