Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) and the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) have partnered to offer high school students a tuition-free early start to higher education by piloting a new Early College Program. To launch the joint program, CCPS will offer 150 total spaces to rising high school juniors from Henry E. Lackey, St. Charles, Thomas Stone, and Westlake High schools.

Accepted students will be enrolled in both CSM and their zoned high school during their senior year. Students will attend classes at the CSM La Plata Campus and receive both high school and CSM credits for those courses. The Early College opportunity allows students to work toward a 34-credit certification program to complete transferable college credits and their high school diploma requirements at the same time.

Pictured front row, from left are CSM Board of Trustee Chair Jay Webster, CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy, CCPS Superintendent Dr. Maria Navarro, and CCPS Board of Education Chairperson Michael Lukas. Pictured back row, from left are CCPS Board of Education Student Member Ian Herd, CCPS Board of Education Vice Chairperson Latina Wilson, CSM Board of Trustees Christy Lombardi and Sonja Cox, and CCPS Board of Education Member Tajala Battle-Lockhart.

As both a CCPS and CSM student, the program offers enrolled students one year of free college credits. The 2022-2023 pilot phase may expand to include high school seniors at all CCPS high schools in the 2023-2024 school year.

CCPS is covering tuition for all participating students, and associated course fees for eligible students in the Free and Reduced Meals (FARM) program. Cost of the pilot program for CCPS next year is estimated at $694,000, which includes tuition and transportation.

Members of the Charles County Board of Education and the CSM Board of Trustees met yesterday to finalize and sign the program memorandum of understanding. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maria Navarro said she is excited to provide students with an early opportunity to explore their academic potential.

“Through this partnership program, Charles County high school students who may not have had supports in place or financial help for college now have an opportunity to explore their potential,” said Navarro. “Early College Program students will take 11 college classes as seniors and graduate high school with the first year of a general studies college program completed. Not only is this program tuition-free for our families, but CCPS will provide transportation to and from CSM. These students will also have two avenues of academic and well-being supports through resources available at their home school and CSM. The Board and CCPS leadership team are excited to offer this program to our families.”

Early College makes possible college for young adults who otherwise have few opportunities to continue with higher education and gives students an opportunity to experience college-level courses, accelerate the path to degree completion and the workforce, and save money. Upon completion, the partnership pilot between CSM and CCPS will earn Early College students their high school diplomas, 34 college credits and a General Studies Transfer certification. It will also save each student and their family $4,556 in tuition costs. 

“This partnership opens doors for students who may have never thought that college was an option for them and that means we are reaching our most important communities,” said CSM President Dr. Maureen Murphy. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to transform lives, broaden college accessibility, and introduce these students to their regional community college in a meaningful way.”

Students must apply for program consideration and high schools will encourage students who meet the following criteria to apply: students who do not see college as an option; students with potential for enhanced academic achievement; and students from underrepresented and underserved populations.

CSM will soon host parent information sessions for interested families that may include a mix of virtual and in-person meetings. The application process and program timeline will be announced soon.

Counselors at the pilot high schools will also review student applications to ensure the schedule of classes meets graduation requirements. Application criteria for the program include:

  • Rising CCPS senior.
  • Students must have a minimum of 20 credits at the end of their junior year.
  • Met the Algebra I, English 10, LSN Government and Science assessment and student-service learning graduation requirements.
  • Demonstration of an unweighted 2.75 GPA at the time of the application.

Part of the application also includes the completion of an open-ended writing sample.

The application will be posted on the school system website at www.ccboe.com. Students and parents with questions should contact their child’s junior class counselor.

Through the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation, CCPS must provide high school students with a free college and career readiness pathway by the 2023-2024 school year. Tuition is free; students would be responsible for course fees.


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