Lower RGV families save $22M in dual enrollment college credit through TSC

When Sandra Tovar’s son was in middle school, they began discussing the advantages of taking dual credit courses at Harlingen High School South.

As director of Guidance and Counseling at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, she has advised hundreds of families on how they can save both time and money if their child is ready to tackle college-level courses while still in high school.

Dual credit courses are those that students take either at their high schools or on a college campus that count for both high school and college credit.

Tovar’s son, Jacob, earned 28 college credits while in high school gaining confidence in his ability to succeed in college and saving approximately $4,500 in tuition and fees, since dual credit courses are offered at no cost to families.

Since 2017, families have collectively saved $22 million in college tuition and fees through dual credit partnerships between local school districts and Texas Southmost College (TSC).

“Dual credit programs are an important pathway to earning college credit that TSC offers to our communities in Cameron and Willacy Counties,” said TSC President Jesús Roberto Rodríguez. “We appreciate the trust our superintendents and school district boards have put in Texas Southmost College to provide their students with high-quality transfer courses.”

From fall 2017 through fall 2020, Lower Rio Grande Valley students have enrolled in 137,004 semester credit hours.

Each course, whether offered at the high school or on the TSC campus, contains the same course content and is taught with the same rigor as traditional college courses, and faculty must hold the same credentials as traditional college faculty.

Merrill Hammons, BISD director for College, Career and Military Readiness and Advanced Academics said he applauds TSC on the work it is doing to give his students and those across the Lower Rio Grande Valley this opportunity.

“Many of our students come from low socioeconomic families and are first-generation college students, so exposing them to college early through dual enrollment is a large cost savings for them and their families and gives them the tools they need to work toward a higher education after high school,” said Hammons. “The number of students we have seen enroll in dual enrollment has increased substantially and we’re excited to continue this partnership and work together to give our students an easy transition into college.”

According to Hammons, the number of BISD students who enroll annually in dual credit courses has increased by 5,000 students in the last five years and the district is on track to see continued increases.

In addition to the advantages already stated, dual enrollment students are also able to complete a degree more quickly and can enter the workforce earlier, increasing their lifetime earnings.

“We continue to expand our dual credit offerings with school districts based on their students’ interests,” said TSC Vice President for Instruction Joanna Kile. “For example, when our school districts asked for more course sections in economics, we added another economics instructor to our faculty to be able to meet this need.”

In June 2020, TSC celebrated the first dual enrollment students to earn associate degrees since 2013. More than 30 students from the Brownsville Independent School District, Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District and Jubilee Leadership Academy earned associate degrees in General Studies, earning credits that will transfer to more specific programs such as business or criminal justice at a university.

LFCISD Superintendent Gonzalo Salazar said the partnership between TSC and LFCISD is a point of pride for the district and that dual enrollment is a mechanism for transformation.
“Education holds a promise of forging a brighter future and I feel dual enrollment credit is the embodiment of that promise,” said Salazar. “It is both a short-term and long-term reward for students who choose to enroll in courses with a level of rigor that prepares them for their post-secondary experience. Education is a great equalizer and dual enrollment students, regardless of their economic background, can look to the future with hope knowing that their success will be equal to their effort.”

For more information about dual credit opportunities, please contact TSC’s Office of High School Programs and Services at 956-295-3439 or your local high school counselor.