Calallen High School is offering students from five local school districts an opportunity to earn college credits using a unique dual credit program taught by professors from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Janet Cunningham, with Del Mar College's Northwest Center for Advanced Studies, said the program was implemented to give high school students an opportunity to receive college credits at a cost lower than what local universities, such as TAMUK and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, are offering.

Currently, about 120 students from Calallen, Robstown, Banquete, Odem-Edroy and Mathis school districts are enrolled in the CHS program, which is in its first year. The cost is $150 per class, Cunningham said, a reduced course fee that is set for the high school students taking part in the program.

"Having the courses at a reduced rate really helps the students," she said. "Plus, I think it's a good learning experience for parents, as well."

Cunningham said the CHS program differs from other local dual credit programs in that parents have no teacher at the school to contact if they are concerned about grades or assignments on their child's behalf. The responsibility lies with the students, she added, and prepares the teens for life as a college student.

"They need to realize that college is difficult," she said.

CISD Superintendent Arturo Almendarez said he was excited to see the program catching on with local students and praised the surrounding school districts for giving their students a chance to participate. Almendarez said he has always believed cooperation between school districts can only benefit today's youth and sees the dual credit program as a perfect example of this.

"The collaboration with the other districts has been really positive…and they're easy to work with," Almendarez said, adding that it's possible for a student who begins the program in his sophomore year to graduate from high school having accumulated 40 hours of college credit.

"We hope to offer more classes in the future," he added. "We have the capacity to have a lot more students (enrolled in the program).

Cunningham said seven professors from TAMUK teach at the high school four days out of the week. They each provide instruction in one of seven courses - government, college algebra, English, American history, communications, sociology and Earth science.

"That's one area of this program that's unique," Cunningham said of the professors. "This has got to be the best way to do this because students are getting a taste of what college is really like."

The program, like most colleges and universities, offers courses on a per-semester basis, Cunningham said. In addition, students must meet specific benchmarks in testing, such as scores achieved in the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam, in order to enroll in the dual credit program at CHS.

Enrollment for the program's spring semester courses is scheduled to begin in January, Cunningham said. Students at the five local school districts are asked to contact their respective counseling offices for more information.