Drexel University and Haddonfield Memorial High School will announce tonight a first-of-its kind partnership that includes free college-level courses for high-achieving students and online classes, as well as mentoring and faculty-training programs.
As designed, the partnership will give Haddonfield students access to courses not available at the high school, such as Mandarin and electrical physics, and allow them to accumulate college credits early.
And it gives Drexel special reach into a high-performing school where many students already apply to the university.
Drexel will add the lure of giving tuition credits to students for the online and campus-based classes they paid for while in high school. Under the partnership, high-achieving students accepted into the university's Visiting Scholars program can take one course per semester for free, but others will have to pay for online and campus-based classes.
"It's a way for us to outreach to high-ability students and get them involved in our university early," said Joan McDonald, senior vice president for enrollment at Drexel.
If successful, Drexel will look to expand, she said.
"We would consider extending it to other good high schools in the region that are turning out the kind of students that we'd like to enroll full time," she said.
Haddonfield School Board President Steve Weinstein called the partnership a "win-win at every level."
"As a small district, we have some limits on what we can offer our students by virtue of size," he said. "The other thing, quite frankly, is it opens our doors and our walls a bit. It allows new ideas to come in, which I think will benefit our faculty."
Drexel and Haddonfield officials plan to announce the partnership at a 7:30 meeting in the high school library, and the school board is expected to approve it.
While dual-enrollment programs are becoming more common throughout the country, the formal partnership between Drexel and Haddonfield has aspects that make it unique.
"It's probably the first of that particular nature. But it is not unheard of for institutions of higher education to set up similar arrangements with particular high schools of interest," said Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.
The arrangements benefit high schools looking to improve their rigor and colleges competing for the brightest, he said.
Haddonfield has been sending three to seven students with GPAs of 3.5 or better and math and reading SAT scores of 1,200 or better to Drexel per year, McDonald said. Far more, however, express interest in Drexel. This year, 31 of 186 seniors applied to the university, with 23 accepted, the district said.
Haddonfield also plans to use the partnership as a marketing tool. It all started with Haddonfield's seeking help from Drexel's informational technology department to develop online courses for Haddonfield students and students in other districts.
"Families pay us tuition to come here," Weinstein said, noting that the school has more than 30 tuition students, "and we're looking for other nontraditional ways to further that process."
The partnership is multifaceted and still in development, officials from both schools said.
Parts of it, including the course offerings, will begin in the fall.
Other pieces, such as a pre-engineering program, will likely start in the spring and include courses, students mentors from Drexel, and summer sessions.
Students will have to apply to Drexel's Visiting Scholars program, which is open to high school students throughout the region.
Those not in Visiting Scholars can pay between $1,200 to $2,400 per three-credit course. That application process likely will be overseen by the high school and university, Haddonfield Superintendent Alan D. Fegley said.
He expects many will be interested and qualify.
"We have a lot of students who do well and finish their AP courses by the end of their junior year," he said.
If eight or more Haddonfield students are interested in a course, Drexel would consider offering a section just for them, officials said.
"We would offer that in a format with face to face here or at Haddonfield, or done online or as a mixture," said John DiNardo, Drexel's vice provost for academic affairs.