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Belton ISD Launches Dual Credit Opportunity with UT-Austin

This fall, Belton ISD high school students will have a new opportunity to get a jumpstart on college. The district is partnering with the University of Texas at Austin - through a program called OnRamps - to offer distance education courses through a dual enrollment model.

“This is going to give some of our kids a chance to delve into the college experience while still under the supportive instructional guidance of their high school teacher,” said Deanna Lovesmith, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “As we evaluated the opportunity, the benefits for our student just stacked up.”

Through the program, students are enrolled in both a high school course led by a Belton ISD teacher and a distance college course led by a college instructor from the University of Texas. At the end of the course, students can decide whether to include the grade on their college transcript. If they do, the course will be transferable to any public institution in Texas.

“This ability to decide if the credit will be on their college transcript takes away any risk of jumping in feet first to give a college-level class a try,” Lovesmith said. “It’s a safe place to have a first college experience.”

Belton ISD will initially offer “Discovery Precalculus” to students with the hope of adding from the program’s 12 additional courses in future years.

The district has designated one OnRamps teacher at each campus who is receiving training this summer in preparation for teaching the course in the fall. Through the year, both will receive more than 80 hours of professional learning and development.  

“We wanted to start with offering one course and see how it goes this year,” Lovesmith said. “By taking pre-cal, our students will be able to start thinking about whether they want to pursue a STEM field in college or not. There are a lot of inherent benefits. We believe this is just the beginning.”

OnRamps is different from other dual credit partnerships in a few ways that benefit students, Lovesmith said. For starters, the program follows Belton ISD’s school calendar, which is especially helpful at a time when institutions are unsure how COVID-19 will impact school schedules. The program is also available to students who have not yet passed the Texas Success Initiative assessment. 

“OnRamps will allow the students who didn’t quite make the cut with TSI to still be able to taste the college experience,” Lovesmith said. “It doesn’t leave them behind.”

Cost is also less prohibitive at $149, or $99 for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Other programs can cost from $300 to upwards of $500. For this first year, Belton ISD will be covering $100 for each student enrolling in the OnRamps course.

“This is a low risk way for students to try out college,” Lovesmith said. “It will give them a chance to build the academic and social skills needed for success in their postsecondary education.”

OnRamps was established in 2011 with the mission of increasing the number and diversity of students who engage in learning experiences aligned with the expectations of leading universities. During the 2019-2020 school year, students in 175 districts and 348 high school campuses utilized OnRamps. Other school districts in Central Texas using the program include Salado, Round Rock, Georgetown and Leander.