Growing dual enrollment program challenges students, accelerates success

WYE MILLS — Courtney Sturgill will get plenty of practice this spring walking across a stage in a cap and gown. Weeks before graduating with her Easton High School classmates, Sturgill will be accepting her Chesapeake College diploma after completing her associate degree requirements while still in high school.

“I always wanted more of a challenge,” said Sturgill, one of 250 Mid-Shore high school students participating this spring in Chesapeake College’s Dual Enrollment Program. “I thought it was cool how our school allowed us to take college courses while still in high school. It’s a really nice bridge from high school to college work.”

While completing an associate’s degree during high school is rare, many local students are accumulating a substantial number of college credits due to the partnership between Chesapeake and its five service region school systems. Lindsay Chase, who will have 23 credits by the time she graduates from Queen Anne’s County High this spring, will have earned a Basic Transfer Certificate in the process.

“I didn’t really expect that I would take as many classes as I did,” Chase said. “I took a couple of AP classes, found out I could take a couple of English classes at the college that could count in high school, and it all just really came together this year.”

More and more students are availing themselves of this opportunity through Chesapeake College. According to a news release, student headcount is up 20 percent overall this spring, compared to spring 2013, with student enrollment doubling in Dorchester County and nearly tripling in Kent County. There also has been healthy growth in Caroline — 26 percent, Queen Anne’s — 19 percent, and Talbot — 8 percent, counties.

Barbara Viniar, Chesapeake College’s president, said the enrollment increase is due to strong relationships between the college and the school systems and special incentives that vary by county. These range from free bus transportation to the Wye Mills campus provided by the Caroline and Queen Anne’s school systems to on-site classes offered in Talbot and Kent counties to scholarship opportunities in Dorchester and Caroline counties through grants managed by the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.

Viniar also said the school systems are subsidizing some of the cost of dual enrollment as a provision of the College and Career Readiness and College Completion Act of 2013.

“Our school systems have been wonderful partners. They understand the value of dual enrollment,” Viniar said. “The two dual enrollment grants administered by the Mid-Shore Community Foundation — the Holt Grant in Caroline County and the Todd Grant in Dorchester County — have also made huge impacts.”

Henry Wagner, superintendent of schools in Dorchester County, said the Todd Grant has been a huge boost to the goal of increasing access to dual enrollment.

“Dual enrollment provides students with both rigorous academic experiences and valuable opportunities to pursue college and career goals in a timely fashion,” Wagner said. “That the costs are covered through this generous grant makes this option uniquely beneficial.”

“We’re pleased to be able to offer the Holt and Todd grants,” said Buck Duncan, president of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, of the grants that cover tuition, fees and books up to $500 per course for as many as two courses a semester to as many eligible students as the grants can support. “These scholarships are a great way to increase early access to higher education to our high school students.”

Viniar said all the factors encouraging dual enrollment are helping students prepare earlier for their future.

Sturgill, who hopes to attend the University of Maryland College Park in the fall, agreed.

“I know what to expect now from college courses,” Sturgill said. “It’s definitely a big eye-opener. I’ve really grown up through it.”

Sturgill said the ability to move into criminal justice courses after working on her general education requirements was perfect for her situation.

“That’s really cool how I could take classes in the major of my choice,” Sturgill said. “Since I did that, now I know it’s really what I want to do.”

Chase, who hopes to attend Frostburg State University in the fall to study psychology, was pleased to be able to complete most of her general education requirements.

“I reviewed Frostburg’s general education requirements, and I found a lot of the classes they required were classes they also had at Chesapeake,” Chase said. “Chesapeake College is just a really great school to start at so you can see how college works. I was able to get a head start on college and save some money.”

For more information regarding the Dual Enrollment Program, call the Chesapeake College Office of Admissions at 410-822-5400, ext. 2287 or 2240, or email

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