San Diego Unified plans 75 percent increase in high school students taking free college classes

Posted: Thursday, June 9th 2016

Madison High School Graduates

With college costs soaring nationwide, San Diego Unified School District is expanding access to free college courses for its students before they leave high school. The program has proved so popular, the district expects a 75 percent increase in the number of students taking part in the program for next year.

Wednesday, San Diego Unified announced plans to dramatically increase access to free college courses for high school students to meet the growing demand. Through expanded partnerships with the Community Colleges and the University of California at San Diego, the school district plans to provide new college course offerings on a wide range of subjects – all free for high school students enrolled in a district school. The rapid college course expansion was announced as San Diego Unified prepares to release its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the coming year.

“There is a real hunger for high-level learning in every community, and I am proud of the work we are doing to provide every community with access to free college courses,” said Board of Education trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, who passed a resolution urging community college access on May 24, 2016.

Student demand for college courses has been high since San Diego Unified began partnering with area colleges to provide free access to the programs. For 2015-16, the total enrollment of San Diego Unified students in college courses was 1,956 – with some students taking multiple courses. The projected enrollment for 2016-17 is 3,507 – a 75 percent increase.

To meet the demand, San Diego Unified will partner with local colleges to offer more than 110 courses at 19 district high schools in areas such as math, English, political science, psychology and sociology.

San Diego Unified has offered community college courses for high school students for decades. However, the only students who could take the community college courses were those who were part of an accelerated program. This year, course offerings have been significantly expanded in an attempt to bridge the gap so that all students have the opportunity to take college courses and graduate having already satisfied the math and English college requirements. The district has also designated funding to cover the cost of course fees and materials for students who wish to take college courses.  

Partnerships have been made to open up various career pathways, such as the business program offered through San Diego Miramar College at Scripps Ranch High School. Students at La Jolla, Mission Bay, Morse, Point Loma and San Diego high schools can take courses in subjects such as Organismic Biology, Human Nutrition and Introduction to Volcanoes through the University of California, San Diego.

Expanded courses also means a more comprehensive and diverse education for our students through ethnic studies courses, such as Introduction to Black Studies offered through San Diego City College at Lincoln High School, History of the United States from the Black Perspective offered through Mesa College at Kearny High School and Introduction to Chicano/Chicana Studies offered through San Diego City College at San Diego High School.

People who want to learn more about our investment in access to college courses for all students can do so at the LCAP special board meeting workshop on June 14 where the proposed 2016-17 LCAP and district budget will be presented to the Board of Education for the first reading. The meeting will be followed by a two-week period when the public can submit written comments, concluding with adoption of the final documents by the Board on June 28.

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