Cumberland Times-News

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December 11, 2013

New College Readiness Law to impact budget for Board of Education

CUMBERLAND — With Maryland passing the College Readiness and Completion Act of 2013, the Allegany County Board of Education announced Tuesday that it is working to implement and accommodate the new law which creates changes for students preparing for college.

“It is a new bill passed late in the session and many of our districts across the state are struggling with this,” said David Cox, superintendent of schools.

The act, known as Senate Bill 740, was passed into law on April 8. The law’s repercussions were a topic of discussion during the regular monthly meeting of the BOE.

In addition to requiring high school students to be assessed beginning in 2015 for college preparedness with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC test, the new law also changes the financial arrangements for high school students taking college level courses.

“The law will have budget implications,” said Cox.

The PARCC exam will test for college readiness in math and English language arts.

Although the school system has been already working to implement the PARCC test, which will move away from multiple choice questions and requires more analytical thinking and technical writing skills, the financial effect on high school students who wish to take college level courses is still unclear.

“It’s hard to determine the net affect until you have the figures before you,” said Kim Green, chief academic officer.

Currently, the BOE requires a high school senior who wishes to take a college level course, and is eligible, to pay $100 of the tuition charged by Allegany College of Maryland or Frostburg State University. The school system pays the balance.

ACM gives high school students a 50 percent discount on tuition. FSU, because they are a member of the university system, can not offer any discount.

High school students who are eligible for the free or reduced meals program (FARMS) are currently required to pay the $100 toward their college course tuition. Under the new law, FARMS eligible students will not have to pay any portion of the tuition for college level courses.

“It’s a great opportunity for students who want to get started on college,” said Green.

Known as the duel enrollment program, currently, there are 93 county high school seniors taking college level courses. Of those, twelve are FARMS eligible.

Allowing FARMS eligible students to no longer be responsible for any portion of the tuition will raise costs for the school system. However, the new law clears the way for the BOE to raise the amount the parents of the high school students must pay.

The new law allows school districts to charge high school parents up to 90 percent of the college courses’ tuition.

It was disclosed at the meeting that currently, a high school student taking a three credit course at ACM is charged a discounted rate of $170.73. Under the new system the school board could charge $153.66, or 90 percent, to the student, with the BOE paying $17.07.

Green said the percentage of the tuition the school system will charge as a result of the new law has yet to be determined.

Currently the school board used funds from a Race To The Top grant to pay their portion of the tuition. The annual budget for high school students taking college level courses is $50,000.

Board member, Mike Llewellyn, raised concerns about the school board paying for high school students to take college courses.

“We’re creating a nice track for elite students. I worry about the kids that don’t have that step up,” said Llewellyn.

The courses a high school student can take must be a part of an associate arts or bachelor degree career path.

Llewellyn said that students who are not interested in college but want training for a trade don’t have the same opportunity.

“We need to spend the money on the basics. Let’s teach high school at high school and college at college and let the resources be divided that way,” said Llewellyn.

In other BOE news, it was announced that the board purchased 37 SMART LightRaise interactive projectors to be installed in the elementary schools.

The new projectors, at a cost of $68,000, utilize a white board for the images and are touch sensitive.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.

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