This year marks the tenth anniversary of a successful dual-credit partnership between Commerce ISD and Texas A&M University-Commerce. Over the last decade, 550 Commerce High School (CHS) students have co-enrolled at A&M-Commerce and gained a head-start on their college education.
Under the agreement, qualified Commerce ISD teachers and A&M-Commerce faculty teach university classes on the CHS campus. The partnership offers numerous benefits to students, including an expedited path to a college degree and improved college graduation rates.
Thirty of the 42 core curriculum hours required for a bachelor’s degree at A&M-Commerce are offered to CHS students, which means that a graduating high school senior could potentially enter A&M-Commerce as a college sophomore.
Students who participate in the dual-credit program also reap significant cost savings. A&M-Commerce offers dual-credit courses to Commerce ISD at the lowest possible tuition rate–$50/semester hour–and Commerce ISD covers all tuition costs for the students. Students are only responsible for purchasing their books, which are also available at no cost via a book adoption program.
According to Ricky Dobbs, Ph.D., associate provost at A&M-Commerce, a high school student who takes six hours of dual credit could save $2,136 per semester on college tuition.
“Commerce ISD students are receiving 30 hours of credit essentially for free, give or take what they might have to spend for books,” Dobbs said.
Dobbs emphasized that the dual-credit classes are not watered down or simplified for high schoolers.
“One of our responsibilities for accreditation is to make sure that the instruction we’re providing for dual credit is substantially the same in terms of rigor and quality as what we provide on the A&M-Commerce campus,” Dobbs said. “Our program assessments show that our dual-credit students are receiving a rigorous education and are meeting the expectations of that rigor.”
Several safety-net features are in place to support students as they navigate their first college classes. Students may access campus tutoring services, instructors perform five and eight-week grade checks, and A&M-Commerce representatives meet regularly with CHS leadership. The result is a quality program that fosters successful student learning.
Alumnus Rachel Scarcelli, who graduated from A&M-Commerce in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, participated in dual-credit classes as a CHS student. Through the program, she completed most of her core curriculum classes in high school, giving her a head start in college. Scarcelli recalls that the program provided a gentle introduction to college.
“The courses were brought to us, allowing us to feel comfortable within our learning environment while challenging us to operate like college students,” she said.
Commerce High School principal Roger Brown is pleased with the program and looks forward to continuing the productive partnership with A&M-Commerce.
“The dual-credit partnership between Commerce High School and A&M-Commerce is an incredible opportunity for our students,” Brown said. “The ability to gain experience in college-level academics–navigating a college campus and gaining actual credit hours–is invaluable. We have had a great response from our students, and we look forward to expanding the program in the future.”