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As the Marina High School class of 2018 graduated on May 30, the class of 2021 emerged as the first freshmen to have tried dual enrollment.

Back in the day, taking classes at a community college as a high schooler meant several things. Most likely, the student was high-achieving, with a family that could pay for extra classes, and transportation to get to and from campus. Those days, however, are quickly fading from view at the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.

With the passage of AB 288 in 2015, school districts can now partner with local community colleges to provide real college classes inside high schools – at no extra cost to students. Marina High School has run with it.

In 2015, MPUSD asked each community to “re-imagine” its schools; Marina decided on early college and career access. “We looked at what we had in our community,” Marina High School Principal Rebecca Tyson says. What they had was Monterey Peninsula College’s satellite campus, the MPC Education Center, less than a mile away from Marina High. The district opted for courses that were transferable to both UCs and CSUs, as well as general education requirements.

The idea is to help high school graduates get a jump on college requirements. “Lower-level college courses are so impacted these days,” says MPUSD Secondary Education Director Will Nelson. He notes that many college students don’t begin taking classes for their major until their third year because of the time it takes to complete general education requirements.

That can contribute to students dropping out or staying for longer than a traditional four-year track, which comes with added cost.

This dual enrollment program launched at Marina High at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. All incoming freshmen were required to enter into a college course and had several weeks to try it out, before they could opt out; some 83 percent of incoming freshman opted to stay in. By the end of the school year, on June 1, about 70 percent received a grade of C or higher in those classes: “That’s not bad for an inaugural year,” Tyson says.

Students who choose to stick with dual enrollment can complete their general education requirements by the time they graduate from Marina High School. Students who choose to take additional colleges classes over the summer can graduate from high school with an associates degree.

Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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