OCEAN CITY — Built upon an existing dual credit program, Stockton University and Ocean City High School on Tuesday announced the "Dual Path Partnership," starting this fall and giving students the chance to graduate from first OCHS and then Stockton in a total of six years.

Robert Heinrich, Stockton chief enrollment management officer, said to his knowledge it's the first such accelerated pathway between a high school and college in New Jersey, but that other area high schools are quickly gaining interest.

"We have over 30 partner high schools now across the region, and many, after they learned of this, have reached out," Heinrich said.

The number of course offerings at OCHS for which students can earn Stockton credit is being expanded, according to Heinrich, and promotion of the program is beginning with kids now in middle school.

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"Ocean City historically has had a number, a large number, of their students attend Stockton," Heinrich said. "As they enter high school as freshmen this fall, and in future years, they'll be able to take advantage of the dual credit high school course offerings."

There are certain requirements and benchmarks students must meet. They need to maintain a 3.0 GPA and fulfill all necessary high school graduation requirements, but otherwise can take up to 32 credits' worth of college-level classes.

If they do that in their first three years at OCHS, they can enter Stockton as sophomores — essentially two years ahead of schedule.

Heinrich said college affordability for local families is a major part of the concept.

"Our dual credit courses are priced at $400 for a four-credit course, so that really gives them that opportunity to save money on that first year," he said.

On Tuesday, nearly 20 OCHS seniors who will be attending Stockton in the fall each received $100 scholarships from a local business owner, to give them a freshman year boost.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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