Helping students get to college by sending them early


Dual enrollment puts you on the fast track to a degree or certificate

In the push to get more young people from poor households to attend college, some schools have taken an aggressive approach: Enroll them in college classes while they are still in high school.

The concept is called “early college high school,” or dual enrollment, and has been tried in several states, like Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The idea is to help high school students take college-level courses — sometimes within the confines of their own school, and sometimes on a college campus — before they have a high school diploma. Unlike Advanced Placement courses, which require students to pass an exam with a certain score to earn college credit, early college high school programs often offer college coursework for free or at a reduced rate and students gain college credit if they pass the course.

READ: Advanced placement or dual enrollment?

The purpose is to give students who might be intimidated by college a taste of it in a low-pressure environment while also reducing the overall cost of obtaining a college degree. Some programs allow students to graduate with both an associate’s degree and a high school diploma.

Pioneering dual enrollment at community colleges

Tidewater Community College has been emphasizing dual enrollment on campus – in addition to pioneering summer programs on its Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses. With the rising cost of college tuition, TCC’s dual enrollment programs give students an affordable and early start on college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, students who earn college credits before finishing high school are more likely to complete their four-year degrees on time.

Meet Jason Dyer. Jason graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 2014 and earned 27 college credits through dual enrollment. He’s now studying at William & Mary.

With Norfolk Achieves, TCC is providing Norfolk and Portsmouth public high school students the opportunity to start their college journey while still in high school. The program provides students the chance to earn seven college credits for the reduced cost of $50.

“We are excited about this renewed partnership with Norfolk Public Schools, because it enables us to bridge the gap to college for students who are well prepared for the rigors of college coursework,” said Michelle Woodhouse, interim provost of the Norfolk Campus.

The Norfolk Campus program includes a summer bridge program on TCC’s Norfolk Campus. “We’re starting with the basics,” added Woodhouse. “We’re teaching students how to interact with professors, navigate blackboard, study for college courses, develop leadership skills, all while having some fun.” Students will also take the placement tests for the upcoming English courses during this session.

Meet Johnessa Richard. Johnessa, a 2015 graduate of I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, completed an associate degree in general studies from TCC before she received her high school diploma!

The Portsmouth Campus also offers its own summer bridge program called TCC Express. The weeklong program provides high school students who plan to attend TCC in the fall the opportunity to compete their one-credit College Success skills class (SDV 100) with all costs paid by the college. Sessions provide orientation to the campus environment and college life and assist students in building skills that will support them in degree completion, including team building and goal setting.

“It helps with the transition between high school and college,” said Windsor High graduate Liz Pritchard. “I’ve also learned a lot of valuable things about the campus itself.”

A proposed amendment to the Higher Education Act

Now, Sen. Mark Warner, the first in his family to graduate college, wants to give some high school students access to Pell grants to pay for college coursework. Under the proposal, Pell grants could defray the costs to the high schools that are already footing the bill for college coursework for low-income students. The longstanding Pell program has helped millions of poor students attend college by providing them grants.

“First-generation students are not only going to be able to knock off a semester in high school, but as a first-generation college student, seeing you can do college work and that it’s not that intimidating is terribly important as well,” Warner said Wednesday at a briefing on Capitol Hill.

The proposal is sponsored by Warner, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.). The grants would only be available to students in schools that are designated early college high schools. Many early college high schools already shoulder the costs of sending students to college classes, so the grants would lessen the burden for the schools.

The proposal is being offered as an amendment to the Higher Education Act, which Congress may take up this summer.

+ Learn more about dual enrollment opportunities at Tidewater Community College!

Think dual enrollment is for you? Discuss your interest in dual enrollment with your parent or legal guardian and your high school guidance counselor as you begin planning your courses for your junior or senior year to determine the course load that is compatible with your schedule and extra-curricular activities. Questions? Contact the TCC Information Center at or 757-822-1122. 

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