Let’s Build a Dual-Enrollment Culture

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Originally published in Real Clear Education – June 12, 2018

As millions of high school students walk across graduation stages this time of year, many motivated graduates have already earned college credit. In exceptional cases, some have even completed a college degree. All this was made possible by schools and parents who encouraged them to participate in dual enrollment.

In a majority of schools across the country, students now have the opportunity to register for dual enrollment, take college-level classes, and earn high school and college credits simultaneously. More often than not, students can enroll in these classes without ever leaving their high school campus.

These programs are becoming increasingly commonas high schools partner with higher-education institutions to create a menu of early college options, including concurrent enrollment programs offered on high school campuses and taught by high school instructors; programs offered on-site at local college campuses; and programs offered online.

As education rapidly evolves, dual enrollment can unlock remarkable possibilities for students that were unthinkable just a generation ago. Among the many examples I’m aware of: an aspiring engineer whose high school didn’t offer engineering so he got a jump start at community college; a current university student who hadn’t considered attending college but discovered an aptitude for computers through dual enrollment; and a human anatomy student who learned before college and medical school that a career in medicine wasn’t her dream after all.

Importantly, 30 percent of dual-enrollment students take Career and Technical Education courses. Thus, these programs can offer students both college and career readiness.

Not only does dual enrollment bridge a learning gap between high school and college, it also bridges the college affordability gap. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees was nearly $35,000 at private colleges in 2017–18. Completing a portion of college before ever arriving on campus delivers a healthy cost savings for families. Across our partner school network alone, students saved more than $10 million in college tuition costs over the past two years by participating in dual-credit programs.

Despite a growing number of programs in the U.S., many such offerings are vastly underutilized. Well over 18,000 public schools across the country offer dual-enrollment classes, above 80 percent of schools. But only 1.5 million students take advantage of these programs, just 10 percent of high school students. These numbers suggest dual enrollment may suffer from a brand awareness problem.

The good news is some states are actively building a culture of dual enrollment. In Iowa, half of all high school graduates have also completed college classes. Kentucky and New Hampshire also stand out; there 34 percent of those entering community college were high school students according to a study by the Teachers College at Columbia University. Compare that to New Jersey South Dakota where, respectively, only where only four and two percent of those entering community college were dual-enrollment students. The term “dual enrollment” is simply not in the lexicon of many families in these states and others.

Perhaps most importantly, compared to their peers, dual-enrollment students are more likely to complete college. According to the Columbia University study, 88 percent of dual enrollment students continued onto college after high school, and most earned a degree. Thus, dual enrollment can change the entire trajectory of students’ lives.

Sometimes these programs even empower high school students to graduate already having completed a college degree. Ian Marchinton, a 16-year-old from Waynesboro, Georgia, is graduating from Georgia Cyber Academy, an online public charter school, having completed an Associate’s Degree in General Studies after taking both online and on-campus classes. To nurture his passion for epidemiology, this fall Ian plans to attend Georgia College & State University where he will major in Biology/Pre-Med.

It is graduation season but it’s also time for high school kids to get their class registration forms in for the upcoming school year. My message to parents is that, through dual enrollment, there exists a profound opportunity to position your kids for future success. Let’s support students across America to fully understand their dual-enrollment options. That trip to the high school guidance counselor for class registration could become a game-changer!

Kevin P. Chavous, is an attorney, author, education reform activist and President of Academics, Policy and Schools for K12 Inc. He served as a member of the Council of the District of Columbia from January 1993 to January 2005.

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