Nowadays, the opportunity to get a head start on college requirements is easier than ever before. Through a dual credit program, students interested in taking more advanced courses can earn high school and college credits simultaneously.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), the number of students taking advantage of dual credit has been steadily rising over the years. Their latest data shows a 57-percent increase from 2007 to 2017. Consistent growth is also happening at Texarkana College, where this year the school saw its biggest enrollment in dual credit yet with more than 1,800 students from 16 independent school districts.

This Thursday (May 16), eight high school students will claim an associate degree they earned by taking dual credit courses while in high school. One high school senior from McLeod will earn an associate degree in criminal justice, and seven high school seniors from Texas High School will earn their associate degrees in general studies. Natalio Castaneda, one of the students from Texas High, said dual credit courses allowed him to get a head start and save money toward his bachelor’s degree.

Phi Theta Kappa TC Zeta Sigma officers Lauren Upchurch, Natalio Castaneda, and Marlie Mann smiling during a district meeting held at Tyler Junior College.

“Taking dual credit classes is a great opportunity to get ahead of everybody else, and I’m able to learn things I’ll need later,” Castaneda said. “It gives me more options when I go to a university, and it’s a lot cheaper too.”

Castaneda is a first-generation college student and juggles many extracurricular activities while taking dual credit classes.

“I’m involved in the orchestra at TISD, and I was a member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honors Society at TC,” he said. “Last semester, I worked with PTK members on honors projects and helped out with events around campus.”

By taking dual credit courses, Castaneda feels the transition from high school to college will be seamless.

“Being involved in PTK opened up a bunch of doors for me to get involved here since I’m a student at Texas High and don’t come up here that much,” he said. “Getting to meet people at TC gave me a better insight into what college life is like.”

Castaneda is attending the University of North Texas this fall to study music composition and is also planning to begin their pre-pharmacy program.

Castaneda takes private piano lessons at TC.

“I would like to go to pharmacy school and then do music on the side, like teaching and writing,” he said.

Castaneda is excited and proud that he was able to get a jump start on furthering his education and career.

“I’ll technically be a junior with the number of hours I got through TC,” Castaneda said. “I love all the opportunities it has given me.”

For students like Castaneda, TC dual credit academic classes are offered at their local high schools and online. These courses typically transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

Texarkana College also offers dual credit workforce classes that are located on the main campus or a TC site. Students taking these courses often plan to enroll in a certificate or two-year Associate of Applied Science degree program.

For more information on TC’s Dual Credit program, contact Stephanie Stokes, Dual Credit Coordinator, at 903-823-3214 or stephanie.stokes@texarkanacollege.edu.