Tuscaloosa City Schools are once again expanding their dual enrollment scholarship program, offering high school students the opportunity to earn more college credits than ever before at no cost.

TCS Superintendent Mike Daria joined Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and representatives from Shelton State Community College, Stillman College and the University of Alabama's Early College in a joint press conference to share the news Thursday.

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The current dual enrollment program is funded through the city's Elevate Tuscaloosa tax plan, through which 795 students in city schools have earned a total of 3,470 college credit hours in the last three years, all at no cost. All tuition, books and fees are covered - families only pay for applications and are responsible for transportation as necessary.

The program previously allowed students to earn nine no-cost credit hours at Shelton, Stillman or UA through dual enrollment - that number will now rise to 12 credit hours, leaders said Thursday.

"I do not know another community in our state that is doing this work, and where the funding barrier has been removed for all students. Elevate has opened up access for all students that was not previously there," Daria said. "We are at 62 percent of our eligible students are taking college courses before they walk across the stage. Folks, this is unheard of."

Maddox said dual enrollment and access to affordable education are priorities for him because of his own life experience - he said his parents had to sell their home to get Maddox and his sister through college at UAB and UA respectively.

"It's one of the few times I ever saw my mom cry. At the time I don't know if I understood the sacrifice my parents made," Maddox said. "So in my political life, I've always had a belief that no parent should, whether getting their child ready for school or to enter the workforce, should ever have to give up that much."

With 12 hours of college credit on the table, TCS students can essentially knock out an entire semester of college coursework at no cost and also unlock priority enrollment at the institutions.

At Shelton State specifically, the deal is even sweeter - they will match the city and provide another 12 credit hours free of charge to TCS students.

"Through Shelton State, that's one year of college," Maddox said. "One year of college and all you have to be is enrolled in Tuscaloosa City Schools."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

The education and government officials were accompanied by half a dozen TCS students who are currently taking advantage of dual enrollment and fielded questions from local media about its impact on their lives.

Bailey Weatherly, a senior at Northridge High School, said she began dual enrollment studying criminal justice at UA only to release after several classes that she wanted to change gears and study nursing at Shelton State.

Figuring all that out while she is still in high school will save her family time, money and stress down the road.

"It's a blessing to be able to switch and just make these changes really early on," she said. "And I know that a lot of people aren't able to financially afford stuff like this so for kids in the Tuscaloosa City Schools to be able to have this opportunity to take classes and get a head start is really great."

Harmonee King, a student at Paul W Bryant High School, said she has already studied history, psychology and biology and earned 13 college credits.

Watch the entire announcement above, and learn more about the program and how to take advantage of it here.

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Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

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