Enrollment in courses allowing students to earn college credits while in high school has nearly quintupled in the past three years at six schools participating in a St. Paul initiative led by the Center for School Change.

Joe Nathan, the center's director, reported on the project's successes during an appearance before the St. Paul School Board earlier this week.

Accompanying him at the meeting were several students, one of whom, a senior at Higher Ground Academy, said that he currently was taking three dual-credit courses -- two being in macroeconomics and chemistry -- and felt he now was "ahead of the game" in furthering his education.

The student is the oldest of 10 children, Nathan said.

The project is a collaborative effort between four St. Paul school district schools and two St. Paul charter schools, and is designed to inspire low-income students and students of color to dream of higher-education possibilities -- and save money on future tuition costs in the process.

One district school, AGAPE High School, serves students who are pregnant or parenting.

According to the Center for School Change, the number of dual-credit enrollments at the six schools has grown from 179 in 2010-11, the year before the project's launch, to 867 in 2013-14. Participation has been strongest at the two charter schools: Higher Ground Academy and Community of Peace Academy.

Nathan told board members: "This is an example of St. Paul collaborating in the best interest of kids."

The Increasing College Readiness Project is funded by $312,000 in foundation grants.

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