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

Joe Nathan, the center's director, gave a progress report to the St. Paul school board, accompanied by several students. One of them, a senior at Higher Ground Academy, said that he was taking three dual-credit courses — including macroeconomics and chemistry — and felt he now was "ahead of the game."

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

The project is a collaboration between four St. Paul 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 — and save money on future tuition costs.

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.

"This is an example of St. Paul collaborating in the best interest of kids," Nathan said.

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

High-schoolers in the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district took their participation in dual-credit courses up a notch in 2013-14, the district reported recently.

Students at North and Tartan high schools earned a total of 3,825 college credits last school year, compared with 2,804 credits in 2012-13, when district students ranked second in the state in securing University of Minnesota credits through the College in the Schools program.

According to state data, 47 percent of the 10,600 students in the district are minority group members.

The 3,825 credits translates to a tuition savings of nearly $1.8 million, the district said.

To learn more about dual-credit courses, go to the Center for School Change website at centerforschoolchange.org/dual-credit.