For the first time, Ohio University Pickerington Center this year will offer some area high school students the opportunity to earn college credit at no cost.

For the first time, Ohio University Pickerington Center this year will offer some area high school students the opportunity to earn college credit at no cost.

The "dual enrollment" program allows them to earn college credit by taking classes from qualified high school teachers.

The program, which has been in place at Ohio University Lancaster for the past five years, is offered to students who attend Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools, as well as those at Berne Union and Lancaster high schools.

Students who participate can receive their normal high school credits, but they also will earn college credit with no tuition cost.

"The students receive credit for taking a class in their high school taught by a high school teacher who meets Ohio University's requirements," Ohio University Lancaster/Pickerington Dean Jim Smith said. "They will receive both high school credit and college transcript credit for taking the course."

Students are eligible for the program if they meet certain criteria, such as grade point averages. The high school faculty member works with the university faculty to build the course content to match classes taught at the university.

"After the school district and the campus reach an agreement on what courses will be taught at the high school for dual credit, the participating students earn the college credits by passing courses just like regular college students," said Paul Abraham, Ohio University Lancaster/Pickerington associate dean. "Dual credit classes cover topics that overlap high school and college.

"However, it would be normal for a high school class to be adapted to some degree to match a college class in content and rigor," he added. "The high school teacher works with a campus mentor on assignments and tests that meet the standards of a university course."

Abraham said dual enrollment programs have been popular among Ohio colleges and universities for several years, but he said he isn't aware of any that are offered to high school students for free.

He also noted that taking advantage of the dual enrollment program potentially can cut students' costs after they enroll in college.

"Usually, there's at least a small fee per student credit hour paid by the school or the student," he said. "We would like to increase interest in dual enrollment in our greater Lancaster-Pickerington communities by removing the financial barrier.

"Even though a college education provides many benefits and opportunities, it is not automatic that students who go to high school will decide to go to college for many reasons," Abraham said.

"We are hopeful that students who can complete at least one college course in high school will be more confident and persistent about attending college after high school.

"After all, they won't be new college students; they will have experience in college courses," Abraham added. "And, whatever college credits students can complete in high school will help ease their overall higher education costs."

Additional information regarding the dual enrollment program can be obtained at www.ohio.edu/pickerington or www.ohio.edu/lancaster.