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Free dual enrollment is a big deal for many students

Published On: Aug 05 2013 03:31:18 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 05 2013 05:56:31 PM EDT

It's now even easier and more affordable for high school students to get a college education.


It's now even easier and cheaper for local high school students to get a college education.

At a joint meeting between City Council, the Roanoke City School Board and Virginia Western, the community college talked about it's newest program.

Back in March, Virginia Western announced it's waiving tuition for students taking dual enrollment classes.

Those are classes students can take in high school and earn college credit, but many students weren't.

They can now.

Imagine taking and passing a college class and earning no credit for it.

That was the case for hundreds of students in Roanoke City Schools before the announcement.

"Students should not have any barriers to go on to higher education. And obviously one of the main barriers from Roanoke City Schools is money.  Well money is not the issue now," said Virginia Western President Robert Sandel.

City Schools superintendent Rita Bishop says she had a conversation a while back about this money issue with Sandel.

"He got back to me within two weeks and said, 'I can fix that problem' and he did, and it's going to be huge for our students," Bishop added, "I think we're going to see a huge number of kids."

70% of students in City Schools are on free or reduced lunch.

This push towards dual enrollment alongside the Community College Access Program, or CCAP, is meant to encourage lower-income students to think even more seriously about higher education.

"Our cooperation with Virginia Western and their working with us is a game changer for this valley," Bishop added.

How will Virginia Western pay for this?

There's an incentive to having more students enrolled at the school, but there's also a moral compass guiding the school's thinking.

Sandal said, "We hope to get more students enrolled and therefore, we would, in return, get more money from the state. Does it equate out? Probably not, but it's the right thing to do."

One of the biggest issues discussed at the joint meeting this morning was the disparity between the two city high schools; Patrick Henry and William Fleming.

Last year, Patrick Henry offered three times more dual enrollment courses and had nearly seven times the students enrolled in those classes.

That disparity was something Rita Bishop said she'd get working on fixing as early as this afternoon.

It's not just Roanoke City students who benefit; Roanoke, Franklin, Craig and Botetourt Counties and Salem are all included in this new program.

The students this will likely help the most are in Roanoke City.