From early exposure to dual enrollment: 3 Georgetown programs preparing DC students for college success

As part of its efforts to enhance the education of students from backgrounds historically underrepresented in higher education, Georgetown University’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (CMEA) is strengthening the pathway to college for Washington, DC, public school students. CMEA leads several pre-college academic initiatives, including the College Exposure-Dual Enrollment program, which welcomed its most recent cohort of high school seniors in Fall 2023.  

Georgetown is part of a consortium of universities, including nearby Catholic University and George Washington University, that participate in the DCPS Private Universities Dual Enrollment program. Unlike other universities that designate specific pre-approved classes for dual enrollment, CMEA’s College Exposure-Dual Enrollment program allows students to choose one 001-199 level course taught by faculty from the Georgetown University College of Arts & Sciences on the Hilltop campus. By the end of the College Exposure program, many students have earned credits they will be able to apply to their college major, wherever they eventually choose to enroll.

Related: Georgetown programs introduce college to underserved students in grades 6-12 >

Diversifying dual enrollment, pipelines to college

The dual enrollment model has become increasingly popular in the last few years, as it places students on a more affordable, quicker pathway to a bachelor’s degree. According to an October 2023 report by the Community College Research Center, over 1.5 million high school students take college courses each year. However, the report, which presents recommendations for making dual enrollment more equitable, finds that conventional dual enrollment programs are often “programs of privilege,” with students with disabilities and American Indian, Black, Latine, multiracial, and Pacific Islander students participating at lower rates.

Providing more equitable access to dual enrollment is a priority for Georgetown and its partnership with the District, which recently announced an ambitious goal to raise college completion rates among DC students to 80% by 2050. DC has faced persistent low college completion rates. For every 100 DC students who start the ninth grade, 18 will earn a college degree within six years of graduating high school, according to the DC Policy Center. College presidents from the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, including Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia, have pledged their support for the new initiative. (Learn more by reading this week’s FEED story on the District’s college completion goal.)  

Related: Building bridges to college for traditionally underrepresented students >

Georgetown’s College Exposure-Dual Enrollment program aims to help narrow the degree completion gap—and complements CMEA’s other work at the intersection of K-12 and higher ed. CMEA’s Kids2College program introduces sixth graders to the idea of higher education by placing Georgetown students in DC elementary and middle schools to lead college preparation workshops.

Starting in the seventh grade and continuing through high school, students who participated in Kids2College can attend Georgetown’s Institute for College Preparation (ICP), which pairs tutoring and mentorship during the school year with summer enrichment opportunities. During the fall and spring semesters, ICP participants complete rigorous coursework during Saturday Academy classes on Georgetown’s Hilltop campus. They also participate in Summer Institutes designed to equip them for college, and in their junior year of high school, students live on the Hilltop during the summer session to get a taste of campus life. ICP faculty continue to support students through their first year of college, and students are often invited to participate in the College Exposure/Dual Enrollment program as rising seniors. 

“We now have five to six years with these young people to build their skills, to increase their college knowledge, to focus on those both cognitive and non-cognitive variables,” says Georgetown alumna Charlene Brown-McKenzie (C’95, G’23, Parent’27), CMEA director and executive director of CMEA’s community engagement and pre-college programs.

Crucial preparation for college life

Students who participate in the College Exposure-Dual Enrollment program hail from all eight DC wards, representing a variety of demographics, nationalities, and academic and economic backgrounds. In the spring, applicants are evaluated on how much they’ve taken advantage of the best curriculum that their school has to offer, as some high schools may have fewer resources and may offer fewer advanced courses. Students accepted to the dual enrollment program attend orientation during the summer, and advisors work with them to identify appropriate coursework. Throughout the fall semester, faculty assess how students are balancing their academics with extracurricular activities. Students who earn a C or above are eligible to take more classes in the spring semester.  

Related: GAO finds inequitable access to courses that support college-readiness >

Keshia Woods, associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, serves as the College’s liaison to assist with guiding students through their dual enrollment experience and helping them acclimate to the realities of the college-level academic environment.

“The College Exposure Program serves as a preparation for college life and university experiences,” Woods tells The FEED. “Students can transfer and translate what they’ve learned here to other spaces.” 

Faculty help students identify their academic and career interests so they begin to think about what fields they may pursue when they move into a four-year undergraduate program. “We talk to students and their families about the program’s opportunities and challenges they might experience when they enroll, how to navigate class selections when courses are filled, and what life skills and personal experience they can gain from taking different classes,” Woods explains.

Fostering a sense of belonging

“The model we set up invites students not just in the classroom, but to be part of the full Georgetown experience, which can impact how they see themselves on Georgetown’s campus or other universities they decide to attend,” says Brown-McKenzie. “They essentially get to be an undergraduate student and learn how to leverage the campus resources.” 

Related: A new home for the Office of Student Equity & Inclusion >

In addition to receiving academic support, students are invited to campus events and other activities that encourage them to feel part of the Georgetown community. They receive student IDs, which give them access to study in the campus library, eat in the dining hall, and engage in the cultural and social life of the campus. 

“To do this for 20 to 30 students each year is a gift,” says Brown-McKenzie.

Read more about CMEA, its pre-college programs, and the many ways it helps ensure that students from all backgrounds can thrive—a core commitment of Georgetown’s Called to Be campaign.

Topics in this story
, , ,

Next Up

‘A moonshot goal’ for more DC students to earn college degrees

Several Washington, DC-area college leaders—including Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia—have pledged support for an ambitious effort to increase the college completion rate among DC students to 80% by 2050.