This fall, three high school students from Fayette County Public Schools will be among the first class of 60 students who will enter Morehead State University's new dual-credit Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics:
The Lexington students are Thea Perry-Farr, Daniel Rush and Griffin Thomas Smith.
Two other high school students from Fayette County, Tyler Smith and Elizabeth Yates, will enter the similar Gatton Academy at Western Kentucky University this fall; three from Fayette County recently graduated from Gatton.
While a few hundred Kentucky students are benefitting from the tuition-free residential programs for high school juniors and seniors, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told state lawmakers recently that he was concerned about the state's remaining 43,000 high school students who could benefit from dual-credit programs in their home districts.
"There is no program that works better than dual credit to get kids college- and career-ready," Holliday said.
"It increases the percentage of low income and minority children" who are successful in college, he said.
Holliday said he and other education leaders were trying to make sure all Kentucky students have access to dual credit.
In Kentucky, a student enrolled in a dual-credit course is able to earn high school and college credits simultaneously.
Holliday; Council on Postsecondary Education president Bob King; and Carl Rollins, executive director of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority, all told state lawmakers last week that they were developing a new set of guidelines to expand dual-credit offerings and reduce barriers, including fees, that might keep some students from taking full advantage of the option.
The co-chairs of the General Assembly's Joint Interim Committee on Education, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, and Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, earlier asked Holliday and the other education leaders to form an advisory council to study the inconsistencies in dual-credit opportunities in districts across the state.
The advisory council has been working on a policy to increase access to dual credit, promote quality and rigor of the courses regardless of the postsecondary institution offering the course, and ensure that the courses transfer to postsecondary institutions.
"We know some of the courses our kids take are not of the highest quality" Holliday said.
Education officials are trying to ensure that the dual-credit courses are affordable for students and cost-effective for schools.
Some students take the courses for free. Others are paying $365 for a course, the commissioner said.
Holliday said education leaders would discuss with lawmakers specific dual-credit funding proposals in a few months.
Fayette County Public Schools is budgeting about $134,900 a year for initiatives that include dual credit and advanced placement exams, said Kyna Koch, senior director of administrative services. A budget document shared with the school board recently said $60,000 was set aside for dual credit.
Most of the dual-credit courses are taught by Fayette County teachers who are approved by Bluegrass Community and Technical College to teach BCTC courses in schools.
For those courses, there is a $50 registration fee per student that BCTC collects. The district pays that fee, but the cost of books is extra. If the school previously purchased books through grant funds, they reuse them and charge a textbook rental fee. Otherwise, students have to purchase books for the dual-credit courses
At the state's two residential dual-credit schools, tuition, housing, and meals come at no cost to students and their families.
At the new Craft Academy, director Carol Christian told lawmakers, "We're going after the best and the brightest young people in Kentucky."
The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics is being paid for with $2.3 million from the state and $4 million from coal executive Joe Craft.
Christian said that 11 incoming students are from Central Kentucky and 19 from Eastern Kentucky. The rest are from across the state.
Lynette Breedlove, director of Gatton Academy, which just graduated its eighth class, said the among the program's goals are economic development for Kentucky and to offer advanced educational opportunities for young mathematicians and scientists.
Students in that program finish high school with more than 60 hours of college credit.