, Newburyport, MA

November 19, 2012

Port schools discuss offering college credit classes

By Lynne hendicks

---- — NEWBURYPORT — College is expensive, but public school leaders here in Newburyport are mulling over a plan that could make paying for college more cost-effective for kids who matriculate from Newburyport High.

After several years of talking about it at the school council level, council member Ralph Orlando is taking the myriad possibilities for college partnership to the School Committee, where it will be presented tonight from 6:30 to 7 in hopes of hammering out a program this year.

With the potential to allow high school kids to earn college credit while still attending NHS, at a fraction of the cost they’ll pay upon enrollment their freshman year, Orlando is hoping parents and students turn out to the meeting to let the district know what kinds of classes they’d be interested in pursuing.

“I strongly believe the concerns, needs and wishes of the parents, students and teachers should be reviewed publicly in dialogue before the school proceeds unilaterally with a plan for any such college partnerships in Newburyport,” said Orlando.

Superintendent Marc Kerble is imploring parents and students to attend as well, to discuss the many ways that colleges and universities can be a partner with the schools.

“The opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school would be terrific,” said Kerble, who said the program is envisioned starting out slowly due to constraints in the NHS schedule.

“Our thinking at this point would be a course during the summer and then courses that can be taken in the evening,” said Kerble. “We’re looking at other options, but with a rotating schedule at the high school, it’s a little difficult.”

Last spring the high school entered into talks with Salem State University on a potential union, and tonight a representative from North Shore Community College is expected to attend to present possibilities that exist through its high school college credit program.

Whether the district decides on Salem State, North Shore or another school, the program will end up offering more opportunities for students for online or face-to-face class credits.

Students who take college courses off-site have the opportunity to pay a markedly lower cost per credit hour than the institution charges enrolled student on campus. The savings can be up to 80 percent less. In some cases, said Kerble, the school district is able to acquire grant money that makes college-level work free to students. That’s something the district is planning to look into.

“The most important thing at this point is to establish and work on possibilities,” said Kerble.

The conversation will take place in Room #118 at NHS. According to Orlando, it will be an interactive meeting that welcomes input from the audience.

“I will moderate the session with Dr. Kerble and Mr. Nessen of NHS, providing some comments during a brief presentation and leaving 10 to 15 minutes for community dialogue on the topic,” said Orlando.