By VICTORIA VILLANUEVA-MARQUEZ
SARASOTA — After approving a new dual enrollment deal with the University of South Florida in May, Sarasota County School Board members expected the partnership to fill a void left by another college.
The State College of Florida’s decision to pull its courses from Sarasota County high schools disappointed hundreds of students and sparked backlash from district officials.
And yet, the new program with USF has not drawn too many students.
As of early June, 44 students enrolled in dual enrollment courses offered through USF, according to data obtained from the school district.
The numbers pale in comparison to the 617 students who signed up for courses with the State College of Florida last year.
School board member Shirley Brown noted that the drop in participation could be due to the fact that students have several other options that allow them to earn college credit while in high school.
She pointed out that many students opt to participate in programs, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education.
Some of the other programs are more appealing to students who plan to attend out-of-state colleges, Brown said, noting that dual enrollment credits may not transfer to these colleges.
“There are several parents that feel they have to have dual enrollment,” Brown said. “But there are a lot of alternatives available to students.”
The district also has a dual enrollment agreement with the University of Florida that allows students to take courses online, but the number of students who opted to participate in the program was very low. Last year, only 9 students took courses with UF.
This year’s enrollment numbers for SCF and UF were not yet available.
Furthermore, stricter eligibility requirements has prevented students from taking courses with USF.
USF requires students to have a minimum 3.5 GPA, while SCF sets the standard at 3.0.
Although dual enrollment courses made its return to high school campuses with the USF agreement, School Board member Eric Robinson noted that certain courses cannot be offered at schools where only two students qualify for the program.
The low participation, he added, limits opportunities for students.
“I think it’s a problem,” Robinson said. “Kids aren’t getting exposure to dual enrollment, and that experience can increase the likelihood that they will continue their education.”