PHS and TCNJ collaborate in creating dual enrollment program

April, 2024
Bengu BulbulEmil KapurMaiya Qiu

The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is opening doors to higher education for PHS students through its new dual enrollment program, an initiative aimed at elevating learning while promoting equity among students and giving them a head start in their collegiate journey.

“We know we have very high quality teachers, we know we have programs that are very, very competitive, even against college level programs,” said PHS Principal Cecilia Birge. “So we think that our students deserve having [the] recognition of taking [a college level program], and not to mention the financial benefits that your enrollment brings along.”

Birge also highlighted the program’s founding principles: a commitment to academic excellence, equity, and financial accessibility. In order to maximize student learning time to uphold educational quality, one distinctive feature that sets this program apart from PHS’s other partnerships, such as those with Mercer County Technical Schools, is its full integration within the PHS campus. Unlike traditional dual enrollment programs, which often require students to leave campus, this program will be entirely housed at PHS, ensuring that students can engage in college-level coursework without compromising their high school experience.

“We really wanted our students to have the full blown PHS experience, not a partial one here and the partial one at another school,” said Birge. “We also want our partners in the dual enrollment program to be really the top notch kind of partners who can bring innovative ideas who share our educational philosophy, [and] so, that’s how we [identified] TCNJ as a partner.”

Students signing up for the dual enrollment program will receive essential information in September, including their TCNJ email address and portal details. Upon completion of the course with a grade of a C or higher, students will receive credits from PHS, three TCNJ credits, equivalent to a full college course, and the TCNJ transcript. To participate, students need to pay a fee of $550 before the start of the program. However, the program provides substantial cost savings for families.

“As you may or may not know, college-level courses cost about $3,000. So $550 is a significant saving for most of our families at PHS. [Additionally], families will have 529 plans, which is a college savings and investment plan that they can use the money from to pay for this course too,” Birge said.

In order to facilitate a smooth transition into the two schools’ partnership, PHS will only offer Sociology for the first year of the program alongside the already existing Sociology Accelerated course at PHS. The course will be taught by Elizabeth Taylor, a history teacher at PHS currently teaching AP U.S. History and the present high school-level Sociology Accelerated course.

“The Sociology course actually started out as an AP pilot program. The College Board was considering an AP Sociology course, and Princeton was one of the schools that piloted it, so the class had already been designed as a college level course,” Taylor said.

However, even after the College Board ultimately made the decision to not include AP Sociology in its course catalog, PHS continued teaching sociology following the same college level curriculum.

“It always [disappointed me] that students were doing essentially a college level class but not getting the credit they would through an AP class. So as I thought about other schools offering dual enrollment, it seemed perfect for [this course]. Students do the same work they’re doing now, but get college credit at the end, [which] seemed like a perfect fit,” Taylor said.

When deciding whether the program will be held entirely at PHS, one of the most common considerations is if TCNJ professors will be brought in, or if the courses will be taught by PHS teachers. Birge provides insight into this aspect of the program’s structure, highlighting the importance of the teacher’s role in the process.

“[This] program is very much a teacher dependent program, meaning that Mrs. Taylor was actually approved by TCNJ to be a qualified instructor to teach at a college level course,” Birge said.

Students signing up for next year’s courses will have the option between enrolling in a regular Accelerated Sociology class, or enrolling in TCNJ-Sociology as a part of the dual enrollment program.

“Both sets of students will be placed in the same classroom [during the same period]. Mrs. Taylor would differentiate her teaching so that students who are in the dual enrollment program will receive a bit more instruction, probably have some more teaching, reading, and assignments to be completed to ensure that they meet the criteria at the TCNJ level,” Birge said.

Additionally, students enrolled in the sociology class will benefit from gaining college credits, providing them with an upper hand when they go to college, given their previous experiences in college style courses.

“I [had] multiple students who [decided] to pursue sociology in college as undergraduates, and they [had] to start back at Sociology 1 because they [did] not have any credit for it,” said Taylor. “So now, hopefully, most of these students will be able to skip Sociology in college and move on to a more advanced level class.”