Higher Learning: SLU's 1818 Program Gives High School Students a Head Start
When Abby Unverferth (A&S ’12) enrolled at SLU in 2008, she was assigned to live on
the freshman floor of Marguerite Hall, though she hardly was a first-year student.
The then-18-year-old from Red Bud, Illinois, had 31 college credits under her belt,
vaulting her to sophomore status.
By taking several core and general education courses at Gibault Catholic High School
through SLU’s 1818 Advanced College Credit Program, Unverferth had a leg up on her
“Because I’d done so much of the basic coursework ahead of time, I had the luxury
of taking things a little slower than other students,” said Unverferth, who entered
SLU as a still-deciding/undeclared student. “Even though I didn’t know anything about
the subject, I took a course in art history my freshman year. It turned out I loved
it and chose it as one of my majors.”
Bretton DeLaria (Ed ’12) is director of the 1818 Advanced College Credit Program.
“Having dual credit opens pathways for students,” he said. “Many students today are
taking up to five years to earn bachelor’s degrees because they don’t have the room
to discover who they are. Students with dual credit typically graduate in four years
because they have that room.”
DeLaria enrolled at SLU with dual credits, and even though he changed his major three
times, he still managed to graduate in four years. During her four years at SLU, Unverferth
triple-majored — art history, history and French — spent a semester in France and
earned two bachelor’s degrees. She is now a French teacher and a teaching assistant
at St. Margaret of Scotland School in St. Louis.
Making the Grade
Established in 1959, SLU’s 1818 Advanced College Credit Program is one of the oldest
dual college credit programs in the country. It was the first west of the Mississippi.
The program allows high school students to get both high school and college credit
by taking college-level courses taught by specially qualified high school teachers.
The tuition rate for dual credit courses is significantly reduced — $65 a credit hour
for high school students versus $1,100 for SLU students.
SLU started the 1818 program by partnering with two local Catholic high schools —
St. Louis University High School and the now-closed Xavier High School — to promote
academic excellence, improve college access and encourage students to matriculate
at SLU. The program grew in the 1970s to include other metro-area high schools, both
public and private.
“We saw the program as an opportunity not only to connect with Catholic high schools
but to help change the culture of education in St. Louis by creating access for all,”
We do everything we can to make 1818 students feel connected to SLU. Even if they
don’t choose to attend SLU, I tell students they’ll always be Billikens.
In the 1980s, SLU became one of the first universities in the country and the only
Jesuit university at the time to offer dual credit courses in high schools nationwide.
The 1818 program now has partnerships with more than 100 schools in six states (Missouri,
Kansas, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Hawaii). A majority of SLU’s 1818 partners remain
Catholic high schools.
SLU’s dual credit course selections have quadrupled in the last decade. SLU offers
nearly 70 different dual credit courses in 35 disciplines including history, science,
math, foreign languages, women’s studies and political science. High school juniors
and seniors can take up to 18 dual credit hours per semester.
Dual credit students are invited to luncheons with department deans, have access to
SLU’s network of libraries, are eligible for 1818 scholarships and get preferential
enrollment status over other incoming freshmen. As part of a pilot program, dual credit
high school students have been invited to campus for a foreign language immersion
“We do everything we can to make 1818 students feel connected to SLU,” DeLaria said.
“Even if they don’t choose to attend SLU, I tell students they’ll always be Billikens.”
Of the more than 6,000 high school students who participate in the 1818 program each
year, approximately 350 enroll at SLU.
DeLaria said dual credit not only helps students get a head start in college and save
money, it exposes them to the rigors of college learning.
“There are no makeup exams, no credit for late assignments,” he said. “If it doesn’t
happen in a college course, it doesn’t happen in our dual credit course. Students
learn to do research using the University’s database and submit papers that are college-level
work. We’ve created a culture around excellence and are indoctrinating students with
the SLU approach to learning.”
More than 100 colleges and universities in 50 states accept 1818 dual college credits.
“The number of colleges and universities that accept 1818 credits speaks to how widely
respected SLU is as an academic institution,” DeLaria said. “Educators recognize we’re
offering students an authentic and legitimate college education.”
DeLaria said professors at colleges and universities report that 1818 students are
their top performers, with GPAs of 3.5 or higher. 1818 students also tend to be more
involved in campus activities, including student government and service work.
In addition, a growing number of studies show that dual credit students are more likely
to enroll in four-year colleges, earn higher grades than peers who haven’t taken dual
credit classes and are more likely to earn a degree.
Mario Patiño, a high school biology teacher at a charter school on the island of Hawaii,
can attest to this. He became an 1818 adjunct instructor four years ago while teaching
at a private school. Patiño said 100 percent of his 1818 students enrolled in four-year
colleges and universities.
“Even though the 1818 courses are tough and students struggle at times, their confidence
grows,” he said. “Students learn to become independent, self-directed thinkers. They’re
ready for college and are motivated to achieve.”
Patiño and other 1818 adjunct instructors are required to meet the same criteria SLU
uses to hire the University’s on-campus adjunct instructors.
1818 instructors participate in SLU workshops and professional development courses
to maintain their credentials, and they are offered stipends to pursue advanced degrees
at SLU. High schools are awarded grants to encourage their teachers to train as 1818
Every summer, SLU hosts a symposium for its more than 500 adjunct instructors to discuss
academic trends and program protocols. Patiño wakes at 4 a.m. in Hawaii to participate
in the dialogue online.
Each high school instructor has access to an appointed SLU faculty member as a resource.
These liaisons offer guidance, answer questions and give feedback for teaching SLU
courses. Liaisons also make annual visits to the high school classrooms and share
their observations with the adjunct instructors.
Patiño said what he has learned from SLU professors and his colleagues has given him
the confidence to teach community college courses.
“What we’re doing for high school students and their teachers is phenomenal,” DeLaria
said. “If you’re looking for an example of how SLU is living its mission and being
a part of the community, the 1818 program is it.”
The community went global this fall. The 1818 Advanced College Credit Program has
established its first international partnership with a high school in China.
By the Numbers
6,312 students who took 1818 dual credit courses in 2016
45,000 dual credits earned in 2016
6 states with 1818 partner schools (more than 100 schools, total)
10 new partner schools in 2017
50 new adjunct instructors in 2017 (more than 500 instructors, total)
95 percent of alumni report their 1818 course was as challenging, if not more challenging,
than their university studies
— By Marie Dilg