Thanks to an expanded program, students in every EPISD high school can complete their graduation requirements and enroll in courses taught by professors at the University of Texas at Austin to earn some college credits at the same time.
EPISD joins Clint ISD, Socorro ISD, Ysleta ISD as well as Harmony Science Academy in El Paso, in offering the OnRamps program.
The OnRamps dual-credit program allows students to earn hours toward a bachelor’s degree during their high-school years under the instruction of accredited professors at UT-Austin.
The OnRamps program began in EPISD last year at Chapin, Austin, Jefferson and El Paso high schools. This year, it expanded to all EPISD traditional high schools and Transmountain Early College High School.
“We just saw it as another opportunity for students to get dual credit,” said Jason Long, EPISD’s executive director of college and career readiness and innovation. “There’s some constraints with the traditional dual-credit program most high school currently offer. The UT OnRamps program removes those boundaries for students.”
Unlike the traditional dual-credit classes, the OnRamps program does not require that students pass the Texas Success Initiative. Also, because the courses are taught by professors at the Austin university, EPISD is not required to hire teachers with master’s degrees.
OnRamps courses are free of charge to EPISD students, allowing parents to save up to $1,100 in tuition and textbooks per class. Courses include physics, ELA, pre-calculus, college algebra, statistics, history, computer science, geoscience and art & entertainment technology.
Students interested need to check with their counselors to see which OnRamps courses are available at their campus.
Chapin High School teacher Ben Mendoza began working with the program last year. His role in the OnRamps physics course is to be a liaison between UT-Austin and the students who enroll in the course. He helps monitor labs, facilitate exams and assist with homework.
“They have to take ownership of their education,” Mendoza said. “I like seeing that and how it transforms them from the beginning to the end.”
Mendoza also promotes the program among his students at Chapin and hopes more OnRamps course offerings become available.
“It gives you a leg up on other students because you get to have that college experience beforehand,” he said. “There’s no risk, so why not take it? You can get two things done at once and gain some experience.”
Chapin senior Mia Flores, who plans to attend UT-Austin next fall, liked the opportunities afforded through the OnRamps program. She earned college credit for the physics course she took last year.
“What I liked about taking the honors classes that it was a lot more independent than my regular courses,” Flores said. “I got to be exposed to what a real college course was like. It’s a lot of learning on your own and I really appreciated that aspect.”
Chapin junior Alexia Morales took Mendoza’s OnRamps course for the challenge.
“I want to attend UT-Austin so I felt if I excel in this class I will be able to use the credit,” Morales said. “So far, it’s been challenging. It’s a great class and great experience. I look forward to taking more OnRamps classes.”