San Marcos and Hays CISD aim to help students earn up to 60 college credit hours

Hays CISD does offer dual-credit courses through Austin Community College as well as dual enrollment through OnRamps courses with the University of Texas at Austin. (Community Impact Staff)
Hays CISD does offer dual-credit courses through Austin Community College as well as dual enrollment through OnRamps courses with the University of Texas at Austin. (Community Impact Staff)

Hays CISD does offer dual-credit courses through Austin Community College as well as dual enrollment through OnRamps courses with the University of Texas at Austin. (Community Impact Staff)

When San Marcos CISD began its early college high school, or ECHS, program in 2019, 52 students enrolled. Now, the program has 130 students, said Debbie Smith, director of advanced academics for SMCISD.

That follows a statewide trend in the number of students who earn college credits.

The district uses a “school within a school” model for dual-credit courses, meaning ECHS courses are held within San Marcos High School. The ECHS program also allows any student to enroll while in ninth grade. Despite the low barrier to entry, there are a number of reasons why an incoming ninth grade student does not enroll in the program, Smith said.

“It could be anything from a student not wanting to learn how to be a high school student and taking on the challenge of more rigorous coursework to them not understanding the benefits of the program,” she said. “Parents may not also be ready for them to take that extra leap into college courses.”

Hays CISD does not offer an ECHS program. However, the district does offer dual-credit courses through Austin Community College as well as dual enrollment through OnRamps courses with the University of Texas at Austin, an option SMCISD does not offer. Students in SMCISD and HCISD get up to 12 classes for free since the districts are in ACC tax districts.


After that, tuition for one class ranges from $85 to $353 dependent on where a student lives, according to the college’s website. Although transferable college credit is earned through both, an important distinction lies between dual credit and dual enrollment, said Joy Philpott, director of advanced academics for HCISD. “In dual enrollment, a student is enrolled in high school but is also enrolled as a student with UT,” Philpott said.

Through ECHS, a student can earn 60 college credits by 12th grade without taking a state assessment to enroll in a course.

Smith said the district allows students the option to take both dual-credit through ACC and ECHS courses. “We don’t want our students to think that there is only one pathway, and all pathways lead to the same thing,” Smith said. “Our main desire is to meet each student’s individual goals.”
By Trent Thompson

Reporter, Austin Metro

Trent joined Community Impact Newspaper as an intern in May 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Texas, Austin in December 2020. In July 2021, he was promoted to Austin Metro reporter. He covers several news beats from education and government to dining, transportation, nonprofits, and healthcare. However, his primary beat is business and development. Before working at CI, Trent wrote for The Daily Texan, UT's daily student newspaper, and worked on many projects of his own for his undergraduate program. In his free time Trent writes poetry, spends time with loved ones, and watches Star Wars for the hundredth time, including other new movies.



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