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The Orangeburg County School District is changing the guidelines for students in the Early College program to ensure the option is equally available to the children who qualify.

The Early College program allows students to take courses at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.

Under the new guidelines, Early College students can earn about 40 credit hours toward a post-secondary degree.

The program previously gave students the opportunity to earn 60 hours, which is the amount needed for an associates degree.

Funding demands for the program have increased, requiring the district to limit the number of courses a student can take in a given academic year.

As part of the program, 10th grade to 12th grade students who are not in the district’s Advanced College program can now enroll in two classes per semester with a maximum of four classes per academic year.

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Students will participate in two seven-week terms with a combined in-class and online courses.

School officials say the change is designed to provide more students with the ability to take dual-credit courses approved by the state.

Student tuition for the courses is funded through state lottery money, while the district pays for books and other course fees through Title IV and federal dollars.

During a recent meeting, OCSD trustee Dr. William O’Quinn asked about the change and was informed that in the past some students were taking four or five classes at a time.

“Financially, that is going to be very hard to sustain,” OCDS Coordinator of Career and Technical Education Robert Hemby II said. “We are beginning now to expose the goodness of Early College and when you have seven high schools where more and more children want to be able to take classes, you still must set precedence or set guidelines.”

Hemby said the guidelines are in place to sustain the program.

“We will never tell a parent or kid what you cannot do,” Hemby said. “We will only tell you what we can fund.”

Hemby said the state lottery and district federal funding is available to fund two classes in the fall and the spring, but if a student wants to take more than the two classes per semester, it will be district’s or the parents’ responsibility to fund additional classes.

OCDC Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster said the district wants to make sure as many students have the opportunity to take advantage of the state and federally funded courses as possible during the traditional school year rather than focus on summer courses.

Foster said summer classes may be provided on a first-come, first serve basis and criteria would have to be created.

If a student wants to take another class that is not dual credit and is OK’d to do so by the school principal, then the parent can pay for it.

Foster said the new guidelines have come about because there are currently 86 courses in the state-approved dual courses list.

There were some circumstances where the district was paying for courses that were not dual-credit courses and did not count for high school credits.

“We were funding their complete college education and not being dual,” Foster said. “We want to make sure the courses we are paying for outside of a specialized program are dual-credit courses.”

Other guidelines implemented as part of the Early College program include:

• Students must have a grade of C or higher to be considered passing for OCtech.

• The district will not pay for students to retake previously failed classes, including grades below a C.

• Students on academic probation will not be allowed to take a course at OCtech.

• The district will only pay for courses on the approved 86 dual-enrollment course list.

• Lottery (state) funds will only pay for United States citizens who live in Orangeburg County.

• A guidance counselor and principal must approve the student to take the courses. Any courses taken without an approved application will not be paid for by the district.

Trustee Sylvia-Bruce Stephens expressed concerns about the seven-week time period, saying that may be difficult on some students. A portion of that instruction is virtual.

Foster said it is incumbent upon him to make sure a child is not set up for failure. The new guidelines that limit two classes per semester will help to facilitate success.

“If I allow a child to take four or five classes knowing they have a smaller window and they are not seeing the professor each and every day, then I am in essence setting that child up to potentially fail,” Foster said.

Trustee Mary Ulmer expressed concerns the changes are limiting the district’s expectations of students. She said students have parental and guidance counselor support to help them through the process.

“Let’s not say that the child cannot do and set low expectations,” Ulmer said. “They have to face the rigor. When they leave us, we are hoping they are going to higher learning. If we don’t get prepared now to go to Claflin, South Carolina State and these other universities because we say they cannot make it, we are setting them up for failure anyway.”

Foster said the district has less authority to guide and help a child since they are taking college classes.

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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