Rutgers-Newark’s Dual Enrollment Program Gives High Schoolers a Preview of College Life

Zeinab Said

Anie Velez, a senior at Newark’s Technology High School, knew she wanted to go to college but was intimidated by the unknowns.

Like other prospective college students, especially those who’ll be the first in their family to earn a degree, she worried about juggling the academic load and finding a place for herself on campus.

Last year, Velez enrolled as a student in Rutgers-Newark’s Dual Enrollment Program to get a preview of college life. “I wanted to see what the ambience was like,’’ said Velez, who plans on becoming a nurse. “I wanted to get a foot in the door.’’

The Dual Enrollment Program provides Newark students with an opportunity to take college courses for credit while still in high school. Classes are on campus with undergraduate students and participants have access to intensive mentoring and tutoring.

The program fosters academic preparation and achievement, provides college and career planning information, encourages parental involvement, and increases college financial literacy, said Sheronia Rogers, Dean of the Center for Precollege Programs, which runs the program.

“The goal is to help them become comfortable with the college experience, to be able to see themselves in the college space. And when they apply to college, they start off with credits,’’ she said. 

“We know that students who are mostly first-generation and low income don’t have that same exposure to college as others,’’ she added. “With dual enrollment, they don’t come in like a deer in the headlights. They gain so much experience and social capital.’’

This year’s dual enrollment class boasts 113 students with the addition of two new school-based cohorts at the Newark School of Data Science & Information Technology and West Side High School. Current dual enrollment school partnerships include the Newark Board of Education, Gateway Academy School, Great Oaks Legacy Charter School, Marion P. Thomas Charter School, Opportunity Youth Network  and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School.

According to Rogers, research illustrates that dual enrollment programs boost high school graduation and college enrollment rates and preparation for post-secondary education. 

An important part of the program’s success are undergraduate mentors, who share their own experiences and help students navigate course work and college life.“They check in on them weekly, help them understand the syllabus and help give them a sense of belonging,’’ said Rogers.

“They teach us things from the mistakes they made,’’ added Velez.

The program, which begins in the spring semester, includes about 75 students each year. The academic focus is on core requirement courses, like Intro to Psychology, with credits that are mostly to transfer to a range of colleges and universities, said Rogers.

The academic year program is complemented by an intensive three-week summer program, the Dual Enrollment College and Career Institute which also allows students to live in dormitories, go on career exploration field trips and learn about financial literacy, STEM education, data analytics, arts and media, and career preparation skills, such as resume-writing.

Partnerships with Bristol Myers Squibb, Junior Achievement of NJ and Panasonic augment the curriculum. 

Starting this semester, dual enrollment students will be able to take a new class titled “iOS: Maximizing Productivity,’’ which will help them leverage coding skills to create apps for iOS and iPadOS devices, and strengthen their academic and professional prospects.

It’s offered in collaboration with the Center for PreCollege Programs, the School of Arts and Sciences-Newark, and Apple’s Community Education Initiative (CEI). Through CEI, Apple is providing RU-N with hardware, scholarships, and professional learning and support. 

“Technology skills are essential for success in most majors and career paths,’’ said Rogers.“Students will learn introductory to advanced skills and apply them to maximize productivity and creativity.’’

Velez said the dual enrollment program helped build her confidence, not only about the academic challenges of college life but the skills needed to become self-sufficient in adulthood, such as building credit.  

Malachi King, a Central High School graduate and now a first-year student at Rutgers-New Brunswick, enrolled in the program to give him a head start on getting acclimated. “I wanted the college experience so I’m not shocked when I get there,’’ said King, an aspiring pediatrician.

He appreciated the program’s emphasis on professionalism and said it helped him become more self motivated. “You’re on your own and you have to be determined and know what you need to do.’’