Articles College

Making the Grade

Richland Collegiate High School allows students to earn a high school and college degree simultaneously. Oh, and did we mention, it’s free.

by Alicia Wanek

What if your child could graduate from high school with a full two-year associate’s degree for free?  It can happen—if you are a resident of Dallas County.  For any high school student in north Texas, the opportunity exists for a significantly lower cost than it would be for a public university.

Where, you ask?  At Richland Collegiate High School.

This innovative program was established in 2006 to allow local high school students the opportunity to get some college credit while still in high school, with the hope that they would be motivated to continue with their education.  To date, the program has only been open to high school juniors and seniors, but with the passage of House Bill 505, they will now be able to serve freshmen and sophomores as well.

According to Shawntae Minyard, program services specialist for the dual credit program, “the playing field is wide open.”  Their students represent a wide demographic range:  home school, public school and private school students from seven local counties and all kinds of backgrounds make up their current student population of about 2000 students, and the numbers are expected to more than double with the addition of two new grade levels and fewer restrictions on enrollment.

High school student Claire Lesprit poses here on a recent college visit to The University of Texas at Austin. The Richland Collegiate High School senior graduates high school in May with two years of college under her belt at no cost.
High school student Claire Lesprit poses here on a recent college visit to The University of Texas at Austin. The Richland Collegiate High School senior graduates high school in May with two years of college under her belt at no cost.

Claire Lesprit is a senior this year, and, by all accounts, her success as a dual credit student at Richland Collegiate High School is a testament to her own personal dedication and also to the program itself.  She will graduate in May with two years of college under her belt.  However, it wasn’t a decision her family took lightly.  Her proud mom Juliet says, “At first I was very skeptical about the program in general.  I was also not sure my daughter would tackle the double curriculum—meaning attending to high school studies while studying for the college courses.”

Although rigorous the program is designed to offer support to each student, and each semester the students meet with an academic advisor to assess what classes are recommended.  Juliet credits these counselor visits for much of Claire’s success.  She says, “The high school advisors were really on top of everything and very attentive to Claire’s schedule and progress.”

Students at Richland must work toward meeting their high school diploma requirements, while some classes count toward both high school and college credit. The students entering the program must have the approval of a high school counselor and meet certain Texas Success Initiative test scores. After admission, they must pass with a C average or higher in order to stay in the program. The college credit they earn by graduation will vary according to their own interests and academic levels.

While at Richland, students can participate in theater, intramural sports, attend prom and other traditional high school programs on campus. But for Claire and many others, the lure of getting dual degrees outweighs many of the traditional high school experiences.

“I needed a little freedom and less of the typical nonsense that goes on in high school,” says Claire  “It’s a challenge, but Richland gives us more opportunities to be young adults.”

At Richland Collegiate High School, students can learn to be young adults while earning college credit—all potentially for free!

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