TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Tuscaloosa City Schools students will now be able to enroll in up to 12 hours of dual enrollment courses at the University of Alabama, Stillman College or Shelton State Community College for free thanks to an expansion of the city’s ELEVATE scholarship program.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox calls this a game changer. He, along with several students and city school leaders, attended a news conference to talk about this big announcement.

“Today, I am proud to announce the number is moving from nine to 12 hours of college course credit funded by the City of Tuscaloosa,” Maddox said. “This is extraordinary, and you don’t see this in other communities beyond what it does for these young people are our future. Our young people are the ones who carry that for all of us.”

The City of Tuscaloosa created the ELEVATE scholarship in early 2020. The scholarship has expanded since to include 10th, 11th and 12th graders, who can now take up to 12 credit hours at no cost. The program also covers books and fees. Classes can be offered either virtually or in person, and summer dual enrollment courses are also an option.

Bailey Weatherly is a senior at Northridge High School. She said this program will help families save money.

“The dual enrollment program has really helped me, and I’ve been able to take classes through the University of Alabama,” Weatherly said. “I know a lot of people are not financially able to afford stuff like this, so for kids in the Tuscaloosa City Schools to be able to have this opportunity to take classes and get a head start is really great.”

In its first three years, the ELEVATE Dual Enrollment Scholarship supported 795 students in earning a total of 3,470 college credit hours for students in the 2021, 2022 and 2023 graduation cohorts.

Of those students, 53.4% were first-time dual enrollment students. About 611 TCS students are participating in the ELEVATE Dual Enrollment Scholarship program.