LAKE DALLAS — Beginning this fall, students attending Lake Dallas High School will have the opportunity to finish high school simultaneously earning a diploma and a college associate’s degree.
Last week the district announced the launch of LDHS Collegiate Academy, a partnership with North Central Texas College that will allow students to earn a high school diploma and more than 60 college credit hours leading to an associate’s degree. Lake Dallas students will be able to earn one of three degrees: associate of science, associate of arts in teaching, or associate of arts.
District and NCTC officials celebrated the news with a reception last Monday.
“I just think it’s the most exciting opportunity that we could ever give kids,” Lake Dallas High School Principal Kristi Strickland said. “I don’t even know what to say. We are so excited over this.”
Strickland said the academy would allow students to complete college in a shorter time, which could encourage them to pursue post-graduate degrees.
Details of the program will be outlined in a parent information meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the high school’s Lecture Hall. The meeting is open to incoming ninth-graders, current students and their parents.
After receiving unanimous approval from the Lake Dallas school board, Superintendent Gayle Stinson and NCTC President Eddie Hadlock signed a memorandum of understanding for the collegiate academy on Monday. Under the agreement, NCTC and district faculty and administrators will serve on a team to plan, implement and evaluate the initiative, while district and college faculty will work together in planning and developing curriculum, most of which will be taught on the high school campus.
“We think this is, of course, something that the state and the nation is looking into, and Lake Dallas is leading that charge in this area, and so we’re very, very honored to be a part of that partnership,” said Emily Klement, NCTC’s dual credit administrator and dean of the Graham and Bowie campuses.
Marci Malcom, Lake Dallas’ assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said students interested in participating in the academy must have a 3.0 grade-point average, take the Texas Higher Education Assessment exam and have the principal’s approval.
A student accounting system will be used to calculate a GPA for incoming freshman, she said, and a recent report card will be used to calculate GPAs for any students who transfer into the district.
Malcom said that students, if they choose to take 60 hours, would pay about $4,300 in dual-credit tuition. Taking those same 60 hours at NCTC, after graduating from high school, would cost more than $6,000, she said. Tuition costs will be waived for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, officials say.
District and NCTC officials say if students earn an associate’s degree in high school, they can enter college as a transfer student.
LDHS Collegiate Academy is unlike the early college high school designation offered through the Texas Education Agency in that Lake Dallas’ program will provide more flexibility, Malcom said.
The early college high school designation allows “students least likely to attend college” a chance at earning a high school diploma and 60 college credit hours at no cost while in high school, according to the TEA website.
Nearly 50 schools across Texas offer the early college high school designation, according to TEA.
Lake Dallas becomes the latest high school in North Texas to offer a more flexible collegiate program to its students.
Last month, the DeSoto school district announced its high school would begin offering the Collegiate Magnet Program, which will allow students to obtain one of 11 associate’s degrees and 27 industry certifications, in addition to a high school diploma.
Rosalind Freeman, a counselor at DeSoto High School, said the school is partnering with the Dallas County Community College District to offer the program to students for free through Cedar Valley College. The community college is waiving tuition fees, and the school district will incur textbook costs for students.
Freeman said more than 250 students have applied for the program and about 115 will be accepted.
A similar program is offered at Garland’s Lakeview Centennial High School.
Stinson said what those around the district like about LDHS Collegiate Academy is its flexibility.
“It’s not simply a cohort of students who’ve applied to go down one path,” she said. “It’s open to all students, available whether you’re Ivy League bound, or whether you’re going into the military or [going] into the workforce. There’s something for you.”
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .