Marshall lowers cost to pursue college credits in high school

By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

Marshall University has slashed the cost of the college credit courses it’s offering in high schools in Putnam, Cabell and several other counties this school year to less than a third of the former rate.

David Pittenger, Marshall’s associate vice president for outreach and continuing studies and dean of the graduate college, said the university has dropped the charge to students for each credit hour from $84 to $25. The lower price means the majority of courses — three-credit-hour classes like English 101 — are now $75. The four-credit classes, like Biology 104 and 105, are now $100, and five-credit courses, like Math 127, are now $125.

Pittenger said the university subsidizes the cost of offering each credit hour for only $25 — a typical college student pays about $250 per hour — but he didn’t have the net amount Marshall pays immediately available Tuesday afternoon. He said the program is part of the school’s commitment to providing a low-cost education.

“If we’re here to try to encourage good quality students to think about and pursue a good quality education,” Pittenger said, “why not go in and provide the most support that we could?”

He also said “well over” 80 percent of students who participate in Marshall’s dual enrollment courses, which can simultaneously grant passing students both high school and college credit, end up coming to Marshall, where they earn above-average grades and graduate faster. Students can earn enough credits in high school to enter colleges as sophomores.

The college credits are earned under Marshall’s name, but Pittenger said they can also transfer to other colleges. Various individuals — including professors, adjunct professors and high school teachers that Marshall certifies — teach the courses. Pittenger didn’t immediately know all the counties in which Marshall offers the credits to high schoolers.

Bonnie Prisk, director of the university’s Teays Valley Regional Center, said the price cut affects courses offered at Buffalo, Hurricane and Winfield high schools in Putnam. A schedule of Putnam’s courses — which include College Algebra, American History from 1877 and General Psychology — is available at marshall.edu/tvrc/course-schedule. In Putnam, Marshall offers dual credit courses and classes that only offer college credits.

“It is a fabulous opportunity for the high school kids, and it saves them a great deal of money,” Prisk said.

Pat Campbell, Marshall’s high school program coordinator, said the reduced price also affects courses offered at all public high schools in Cabell, Wayne, Randolph and Webster counties, plus the Randolph Technical Center and two private religious schools in Huntington: Grace Christian and St. Joseph Central Catholic. A course listing for those counties and more information is available at marshall.edu/cchs.

The courses are free in Webster because they’re funded by the local school district. Cabell students who qualify for free and reduced lunch don’t have to pay. In Wayne, parents don’t have to pay the entire course fee up front.

Homer Preece, director of Marshall’s Mid-Ohio Valley Center in Point Pleasant, said the reduced price is available at Mason County’s three public high schools, plus Ravenswood High School in Jackson County — which Marshall just began offering credits in this academic year. More information on the Mason and Jackson offerings is available at marshall.edu/movc/programs, or by calling 304-674-7200.

Pittenger said Marshall was allowed to drop the cost after the state Higher Education Policy Commission changed the formula regarding how much, or how little, four-year schools could charge per credit hour for courses offered in high schools. HEPC spokeswoman Jessica Tice said the commission voted to approve the change in April 2014.

Mark Stotler, director of academic programming for the HEPC and the state Community and Technical College System, said colleges could previously charge no lower than three-quarters of the lowest credit hour rate offered by any public higher education institution in the state, including two-year colleges. The HEPC changed the minimum charge to $25. Tice said one or more colleges have suggested raising the minimum to $70, but commissioners deferred action on the proposal and has not taken up the issue since.

It was unclear late Tuesday how many other colleges have now dropped prices for the courses they offer in high schools.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.