Since 2004, the Panther Valley School District and Lehigh Carbon Community College have joined together to offer students the dual enrollment program, which allows exemplary students to take college courses for credit while still in high school.

Panther Valley High School Principal George Gillespie explained that the classes cost each student $135.

"Currently, there are three course offerings: introduction to sociology and introduction to psychology," he said. "Additionally, there is the student success class, which is taught by Frank Damian."

The program has seen remarkable success since its inception, owing partly to the fact that Panther Valley was the recipient of a dual enrollment grant from the state, which covered the entire amount of tuition for all of the students.

According to Jennifer Neeb, LCCC's director of High School Connections, in 2008, when the district first received the grant, enrollment in the program doubled. This year, due to the state's budget problems, the future of the grant is questionable.

"Originally, we had 55 students registered for sociology," said Gillespie. "Twenty five are actually taking the course. There are 35 registered for the psychology course. Originally, there were 66 interested.

"The interest in these courses is not surprising, given the academic talent of this year's senior class. With the disappearing funds, this led many students to withdraw from the program," he added.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however.

"Knowing the jeopardy facing this program, the Panther Valley Foundation has graciously stepped in, determined not to let the program go by the wayside," said Gillespie.

Paul McArdle, a member of the foundation board of directors, explained that the foundation exists to "fund any kind of initiatives that students and teachers would like to undertake, that are outside of the offerings of the district.

"We've funded things like Governor School, teacher fellowship programs," he said. "We think this is a very worthwhile cause."

The foundation presented the district with a check for $8,775.

"This should cover every student this semester and in the second semester," said McArdle.