Speaking to a crowd of students, faculty and administrators from Piper High School at the Frost Art Museum recently, FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg celebrated the expansion of the FIU dual enrollment program into Broward County.
The partnership with Broward County Public Schools is part of the continual expansion of FIU’s dual enrollment program throughout South Florida.
The program allows high school students to take college-credit classes while still in high school.
“Our passion is to make sure that you can get a great education,” Rosenberg said. “The education that you will get here will prepare you for the challenges ahead.”
Beginning this semester, FIU established the dual enrollment program at Piper High School in Sunrise to provide students with college classes, which are taught by Piper’s teachers on its campus.
“We want [students] to be equipped to be successful when they come to college,” said Irma Becerra-Fernandez, vice president for engagement at FIU. “We look forward to this exciting opportunity with Broward County Public Schools and, in particular, Piper High School.”
In Spring 2014, Coral Springs High School and Plantation High School will provide FIU dual enrollment classes to students on their campuses. The dual enrollment program in Broward County is expected to enroll about 150 students.
In Miami-Dade County, the program has experienced record growth in recent years.
The number of Miami-Dade County public school students taking dual enrollment classes has increased from 425 in Fall 2009 to more than 6,000 in FY2012-2013.
“The students are getting college credit for free,” explained Bill Beesting, associate dean of undergraduate education at FIU. “They get a head start and get a couple of free courses. It saves parents money.”
MyQuan Melton, a senior at Miami Northwestern Senior High School, takes an environmental science dual enrollment class.
Taking the course has enabled Melton to not only earn college credit, but it allows him to be involved with the school’s aquaponics lab and organic garden, which will provide a harvest of vegetables and fish to the Liberty City community.
“This will benefit me and my community,” said Melton, who plans a career in medicine and is considering attending FIU.
In Miami-Dade, the dual enrollment program has increased from five high schools in Fall 2009 to 38 high schools in Spring 2013. The university has increased the number of courses offered from 16 in Fall 2009 to 127 courses in Spring 2013.
“It has been really beneficial,’’ said Jorge Zumaeta, FIU’s director of credit programs and dual enrollment. “Despite challenges, there has not been anything that we have not been able to solve, [by] collaborating.”
“The success of the partnership has been the communication,” agreed Maria de Armas, assistant superintendent for the division of academic support for Miami Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS). “It has opened doors for a group of students to consider college. That has been the greatest achievement of this partnership.”
Zumaeta said the FIU dual enrollment program has about 5,575 students taking classes off-campus in local high schools and about 506 students taking classes on FIU’s campuses.
“We are providing access to higher education to a growing number of our community’s high school students,’’ Becerra-Fernandez said. “FIU has a mission of increasing access to a college education to all who desire one and this aligns perfectly with that mission.’’
Since Fall 2009, The Academy for Advanced Academics (AAA) has allowed students in good academic standing to take college classes at the Modesto A. Maidique and Biscayne Bay campuses.
Beesting said after the first academic year, about 30 percent of AAA students enrolled at FIU. From the past academic year, more than 50 percent of students in AAA enrolled at FIU.
“These are the sharpest kids,” Beesting said. “You want them to stay here.”
Impact of new legislation
During the 2013 legislative session, the Florida Legislature passed a bill that places the responsibility of paying tuition and fees for dual enrollment students on school districts. The law took effect on July 1.
While other school districts in the state are struggling to adjust to the new legislation, the articulation agreement between the school district and FIU has reduced the impact of the new law.
Before the new legislation, the college or university in which the student was taking the college classes paid the cost of tuition and fees for the student. The school district only paid for the students’ instructional materials.
FIU’s dual enrollment program provides both off-campus classes at local high schools along with on-campus dual enrollment.
“We were ahead of the curve,” Zumaeta said. “We put a higher emphasis on developing our off-campus program.”
“As a whole, the agreement in place has helped,” de Armas agreed. “It has been a smooth transition.”
Despite changes in how dual enrollment is funded for students, the goal of the FIU dual enrollment program remains unchanged.
“We want [students] to have a college-level experience where they start thinking about their future,” Zumaeta said. “Early engagement is important so they can realize what they want to do.”