LEWISTON, Maine — Natalia Atkins, 17, listened to former Lewiston police Chief Andy D’Eramo lecture about police search and seizure at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center.
In her law enforcement class, Atkins is earning credit for her high school diploma and college next year.
A few floors down, Tyler Ford, 17, wore a tool belt and safety glasses as he measured boards for building benches. He, too, was earning high school and college credit, in his case from a building and construction class.
This fall 30 high school students are taking part in the center’s “dual enrollment” program, where students in selected career classes are earning high school and college credit, center Assistant Director Jake Langlais said.
Similar to how early college programs help students start college while in high school, dual enrollment gives technical center students a jump-start. It saves them time and money by not having to repeat courses in college they’ve taken in high school, Langlais said.
“This saves them hundreds of dollars,” he said. “It also enhances our curriculum” by providing courses that meet college and industry standards. That means “students are getting a better education experience in high school.”
Dual enrollments are achieved through articulation agreements that align curriculum between colleges and high school technical centers. Area colleges that LRTC has agreements with include Central Maine Community College and Southern Maine Community College, the University of Southern Maine, Husson University and Kaplan University.
LRTC serves Lewiston, Edward Little, Leavitt, Oak Hill, Lisbon and Poland high schools.
The costs of earning college credit in high school “depends on the college,” Langlais said. A CMCC course cost a LRTC student about $45 instead of the normal $250 or $300. Students don’t pay tuition or fees.
Interest is growing among students, colleges and universities, Langlais said.
In 2010-11, 25 LRTC students earned college credit through dual enrollment. In 2011-12, that number grew to 51 students. This fall 30 students are enrolled, and a higher number is expected during the spring semester.
Dual enrollment is a growing movement, Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said. Most high school technical centers offer dual enrollment and are working to expand it.
CMCC spokesman Roger Philippon said it’s growing at his college. CMCC has agreements with approximately 75 high school technical centers in Maine and New England.
“Students are taught by qualified instructors at their high schools or technical centers who have had their credentials and curriculum approved by the college,” Philippon said.
At LRTC, Ford said he’s in his second year of building and construction.
“We learn a lot of practical skills. Anything related to building, framing, different techniques, cutting, planing wood,” Ford said over the buzz of electric saws.
“Free college credit, you can’t outdo that,” he said with a smile.
Natalia Atkins is planning a career in law enforcement, maybe as a police officer, crime scene investigator, FBI agent or the law enforcement arm of the Navy.
Dual enrollment “takes money off” what she’ll have to pay in college, she said. “That’s pretty good.”