NEWS

State budget woes affect dual enrollment agreement

PAT FRIDGEN

The budget impasse at the state level is impacting local residents as anticipated funding fails to be released. Until the Pennsylvania legislators pass the 2009-2010 spending plan, local entities have to make do with what they have or cut programs.

A popular program at Greencastle-Antrim High School is one such victim. While students have long participated in Dual Enrollment, taking college classes for college and high school credit, it is only in the past several years that a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education helped dramatically with tuition expenses.

School is set to begin and the grant has not been announced. The students planning to attend Penn State Mont Alto have been scrambling as they decide what to do.

As of last week, 32 students still planned to take 34 classes. That was down from the 39 who initially signed up for 48 classes. When the college began sending bills to the families rather than the school, choices had to be made.

“It’s difficult on the kids,” said high school principal Ed Rife. “It’s a great program. It’s sad to see this.”

G-AHS received $73,794 in 2005-2006, which went toward tuition for second semester classes. In the next two years the school system received $180,772, the fourth largest award in Pennsylvania, and then $157,568. Last year the Dual Enrollment Grant benefited local students to the tune of $126,831, the ninth largest award of the year.

The grant covers tuition and the students buy their own textbooks, provide  transportation and pay just $50 in fees. The amount of funding is usually announced in the summer, so students sign up for classes and hope for the best. This year the inability of the lawmakers to pass a budget means no one knows how much if any monies will be directed to the program.

G-ASD applied for $300,000. “I expect that will get cut in half, if we get anything at all,” Rife said.

Schedules for the students who decided to forego college classes are being adjusted in the final days before the Aug. 31 start of school. The district restricted dual enrollment to second semester juniors and seniors, knowing the money supply was decreasing each year. If any grant money is awarded, the administrators will figure out how to apply it fairly to the students enrolled in either semester this year.

Kate Bashaw, Assistant Director of Admissions at Penn State Mont Alto, said enrollment in the program overall is down, but 80 to 90 high school students are still taking classes. Students from Greencastle, Waynesboro, Chambersburg and Fairfield are eligible to participate. She estimated up to 20 people dropped out when the lack of grant funding became obvious.

However, Penn State continues to offer its own scholarship for Early to College participants, cutting the cost of a three-credit class from $1,640 to $820. “It’s still a great deal and a benefit for them.”

Another program to fall by the wayside locally is the Classroom of the Future, part of a two-year grant. The aim was to bring new technology into the classrooms. Rife said the grant was dissolved and the district will have to pay for any more upgrades.

In 2008-2009 G-ASD received $165,458 and spent it on 175 laptops, internet-based Promethean boards for interactive learning and other equipment. And $30,000 went toward the salary of Deena Kirkwood, the technology coach, who trained teachers on the use of the new devices.