Rowan University at Camden

High school students get early chance for college success through new Dual Credit Program at Camden campus

Ed Cortez believes in making the most of opportunities. That's why the junior at Cherry Hill High School West is enrolled in Rowan University's new Dual Credit Program for High School Students.

This semester, in addition to juggling his high school coursework and school activities, Cortez also is taking "Improving Personal Writing Skills," a three-credit course--tuition-free--at Rowan's Camden campus.

"I feel like there are many more opportunities for you if you do go to college," says Cortez. "My classmates at West say I'm lucky. They want to be in the program, too."

Cortez is one of 33 students from Cherry Hill and Camden enrolled in the program, which is open to low-income students or those who would be the first in their family to attend college.

Funded by a $20,000 grant from the Department of Education and $20,000 in matching funds from Rowan, the program is being offered this semester to students at West, LEAP Academy University Charter School and Camden Academy Charter High School.

In the spring, the program will expand to include students from the Collingswood and Pennsauken school districts, according to Beth Wassell, director of academic services at Rowan's Camden campus.

Students in the program attend courses in Camden and receive free tuition and books, as well as support services, such as free tutoring, according to Wassell. This semester, students are enrolled in classes such as human biology, general biology, which has an environmental focus, elementary statistics, and the writing course.

As the semester progresses, students will attend information sessions on topics such as academic success and transitioning to college. They'll also tour Rowan's main campus in Glassboro.

The supports are one of the real keys to the success of the program, Wassell notes.

"By providing services to students such as tutoring and on-going ‘check-in' sessions with staff here at the Camden campus, we can enhance their first college experience and help ensure that they are academically successful in their classes," says Wassell.

The program fits into the President Barack Obama's educational goals, according to Rowan education professor Cindi Hasit, who wrote the grant and serves as the director for the Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

"President Obama has emphasized the need for economically disadvantaged and minority students to have greater access to higher education, particularly in math and science," Hasit says. "This grant specifically allows the high school students to take mathematics and science courses at the college level in a supportive environment."

For Camden resident Shabria Blackson, a senior at LEAP and an aspiring pediatrician, the Dual Credit Program has been eye opening.

"I have nobody on my back. It's all up to me to get the work done," says Blackson. "I have had some struggles, but I'm managing. There's extra work on top of my schoolwork. But I like the challenge and it's getting me started with some college credits."


Ed Cortez is juggling his studies at Cherry Hill High School West with his Rowan coursework.
Ed Cortez is juggling his studies at Cherry Hill High School West with his Rowan coursework.