Frederick County public school students will no longer have to pay tuition to enroll in classes at Frederick Community College, officials announced this week.
Change is mandated statewide by the 2021 passage of Maryland’s Blueprint for the Future, sweeping education legislation that is expected to be put in place over the next decade.
The approximately 1,600 FCPS students currently enrolled in FCC courses should expect a refund for this semester by the end of the month.
“It’s amazing,” said Andrew McClain, FCC Dual Enrollment and Early Years Coordinator, of the change. “Dual enrollment is already focused on access and increasing equity in higher education, so removing even more of the financial barrier…can only be seen as a good thing. “
Most FCPS students take dual-enrollment classes at their high school campuses, rather than driving to FCC.
Those students paid between $160 and $220 per class, McClain said in an interview Tuesday.
Students taking classes on the FCC campus had to pay between $350 and $450 per class, McClain said. The rate is higher because these courses are taught by FCC employees, not FCPS teachers, and students must cover their own books and fees.
Going forward, high school classes will be free and FCC classes will cost between $80 and $115.
FCPS will pay student tuition instead, which means the Frederick County School Board will have to budget for costs beginning in fiscal year 2024.
The Blueprint means that state school systems will also have to cover other costs related to college and career readiness, including fees for advanced placement tests or certification exams.
“It’s quite extensive,” FCPS budget director Heather Clabaugh said in an interview Tuesday.
The district is working to quantify the cost of the changes. Some — but not all — of the necessary funding will come from the state, Clabaugh said.
Waiving tuition fees may mean more students enrolling in classes, Clabaugh added.
“It’s a hard thing to estimate right now,” Clabaugh said, “because it’s so new.”
Dual-enrollment courses were already free for students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
Kafui Ameko, a senior at Frederick High School, enrolled in the joint FCPS-FCC Early College program last year. That means she’s attending CAF full-time and will be graduating in the spring with an associate’s degree in chemistry and biology in addition to her high school diploma.
His sister is also enrolled in the program. Ameko said it felt good to know her parents wouldn’t have to keep paying school fees for the two of them.
Plus, she says, the announcement will come as a relief to her friends in the program, some of whom work part-time jobs to help pay for their tuition.
“More students can consider themselves students now that that barrier has fallen,” he said.
FCPS frequently touts its dual enrollment program as one of the largest in the state. The number of students in dual enrollment courses has almost doubled over the past six years.