Challenges facing the dual enrollment program at Pasco-Hernando Community College quickly became topic No. 1 on Thursday at a joint workshop of education leaders from the two counties the college serves.
Dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college classes without paying tuition, has become increasingly popular, but in the process it has become a drain on the college's finances and resources.
"One of the major things about dual enrollment is we've kind of become the victims of our own success," said Tim Beard, PHCC vice president of student development and enrollment management.
This academic year, PHCC has 2,171 dual enrollment students. The trick for the college now is to figure out ways to secure more funding and space to serve the students who want to take advantage of the program.
In the past, the state provided about 75 percent of the college's operating budget, so it was relatively easy to absorb those tuition-free high school students, said Steven Schroeder, general counsel and executive of governmental relations for the college.
Now, though, just 47 percent of the budget comes from state allocations, so tuition and fees play a greater role in the overall funding picture, he said.
Dual enrollment emerged as the top subject at the workshop, which brought together the Pasco and Hernando school boards and the PHCC board of trustees. It was the first time the three groups have met together.
PHCC classes fill up quickly and college students take priority, so high school students choose from what's left.
Possible solutions to that problem include more online courses and more instances where PHCC professors go to the high school campuses to hold classes, Beard said.
Dual enrollment is important because it challenges high-performing students and offers an economical way to earn credits, said Cynthia Armstrong, vice chairwoman of the Pasco school board.
"We need to talk to Tallahassee about funding," she said.