Texarkana College trustees are reducing dual credit general education course fees for economically disadvantaged Bowie County high school students.

The trustees’ decision aims to help alleviate barriers for low income students who want to get a head start on earning college credentials but are not able to afford dual credit enrollment fees.

Board president Kyle Davis said, “As a board, we want to help provide greater access to dual credit for all students, and with this vote, we are supporting TC’s decision to reduce dual credit fees for low income students who reside in our taxing district.”

Dual credit courses, delivered through partnerships between high schools and colleges, offer high school students the option to take college-level courses on their own campus at a fraction of the cost of typical university tuition. Students simultaneously earn high school and college credit, saving college-bound students thousands of dollars in tuition and valuable time toward degree completion. However, research recently released from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) shows that economically disadvantaged students across the state are less likely to complete dual credit courses.

Davis said TC’s board recently studied the THECB data and found that the same disparity exists with economically disadvantaged students in TC’s service area.

“There is a profound impact on the likelihood of a student persisting toward college completion if they take dual credit courses in high school,” said Davis. “However, costs associated with dual credit enrollment have proven to be a barrier for economically disadvantaged students around the state including TC’s service area. While significantly discounted, the cost of dual credit courses to economically disadvantaged students is still prohibitive to most.”

Trustees approved reduction of dual credit course fees for qualifying students from $100 to $50 per course for up to 12 semester credit hours of general education courses that meet core component areas. The same course offered to traditional college students at Texarkana College after high school graduation costs approximately $311. The cost of the same course at a Texas four-year university would typically exceed $1,000.

President James Henry Russell said Bowie County school district administrators are supportive of TC’s decision and are looking at ways to offer dual credit courses at zero cost for economically disadvantaged students.

“Our goal is to eventually offer dual credit courses at completely no cost to underrepresented students in our district,” Russell said. “Bowie County independent school district administrators are looking at ways they can help cover the remaining $50 fee- either by earmarking district funds, or by utilization of philanthropic resources.”

Russell said the lower dual credit fee will result in lost revenue of approximately $175,000 to $200,000 per year for TC, based on current enrollment patterns.

“We will need help from private donors and foundations to make this plan work,” said Russell. “TC cannot rely on state funding to help with this effort. We will have to build a fund from the ground up to sustain this decision. We will need help from all of our stakeholders.”

Almost half of students enrolled in area high schools report household earnings that qualify their families as economically disadvantaged, but Russell said TC’s dual credit population does not reflect that demographic.

“We want to reward high school students who work hard and want to go to college,” said Russell. “The plan will help economically disadvantaged families in Bowie County who pay taxes by enabling their student to have a better chance of earning six to twelve hours of high quality dual credit before they graduate from high school.”

Russell said today’s decision by TC trustees is helping Northeast Texas move the needle toward meeting the state’s higher education goal of 60x30TX where 60% of Texans age 25-34 will hold a college certificate or degree by the year 2030.

“Now, more at-risk students in our county can reach their goals of earning a college credential— and this means an overall brighter future for our state,” said Russell.

The new dual credit fee structure will begin Fall 2018 for qualifying Bowie County students.