Students of Bishop Shanahan High School, Downingtown, who aspire to be engineers can get a jump start on their college education thanks to an agreement signed May 29 with Widener University.

Starting this fall qualified junior and senior Bishop Shanahan students can start taking Widener School of Engineering courses at a rate of only $500 per two-credit course – discounted significantly from the normal $2,440 cost — and can earn up to four credits toward their engineering degree before graduating from high school.

The courses include engineering techniques, taught in the fall semester through lectures at Bishop Shanahan and lab work at Widener’s main campus in Chester, and computer-aided engineering design, offered in the spring at Widener.

“We are so pleased with the opportunity for the Bishop Shanahan students, who are studying advanced placement sciences and mathematics, to be able to pursue introductory engineering course work with the assistance of a top-level engineering program like the Widener University School of Engineering,” said Immaculate Heart Sister Maureen L. McDermott, principal of Bishop Shanahan. “It has been a pleasure to work with Dean (Fred) Akl on this study program and to learn of the excellence and diversity of study in engineering offered at Widener.”

To qualify, Bishop Shanahan students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 or be ranked in the top 20 percent of their class, must successfully complete honors pre-calculus with a grade of B or better, and must successfully complete advanced placement physics, chemistry, biology or pre-engineering.

Widener School of Engineering Dean Fred Akl said such agreements between universities and high schools are vital for the future of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the United States.

“Our universities and high schools need to cooperate on curriculum and resources and do what we can to move STEM initiatives forward, and this agreement is a great example of that cooperation in action,” Akl said. “We have seen a high level of academic preparation and maturity in the Bishop Shanahan students who have graduated from Widener, and we feel it is appropriate that Bishop Shanahan is the first school with which we are establishing such an agreement.”

The Widener School of Engineering celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2012, and today has 465 graduate and undergraduate students in six fields of engineering including biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical and engineering management.

Bishop Shanahan joins other archdiocesan high schools who also recently entered into agreements with local universities.

Little Flower Catholic High School for Girls and Archbishop Ryan High School, both in Philadelphia, partnered with Holy Family University on enrollment and dual-credit initiatives.