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State tweaks, enhances dual enrollment


November 23, 2009
Recently it was announced that the State Board of Education was tweaking and enhancing rules to allow for greater dual enrollment of high school students with colleges and universities. Dual enrollment is not a new thing in Georgia, and its success has been quite high over the years as best as I can tell from anecdotal observations. While I honestly can’t remember if dual enrollment was an option when I was in high school in the early 1970s, I did begin to first become aware of very successful dual enrollment stories with Middle Georgia College by some of our students in the 1990s.

It was not unheard of for some students to graduate from high school with as much as a year’s worth of college credit “already in the bank.”

Probably the two biggest changes that I see in the current rules include 1) who is eligible, and 2) how the funding follows the student. In the past, eligibility was determined (mostly) by a relatively high SAT score and perhaps other grade and preparatory factors.

Earlier programs (mostly, again) were open to high school juniors and seniors. Typically, the joint enrollment student would take one or two college courses along with their traditional high school curriculum. Most of the time, the student would travel to the college or university that was nearby.

In some cases, like an arrangement that the Forsyth County Schools has with Gainesville State College, the college instructor would come to the school and teach a group of students. In other cases, like an arrangement that we have with Georgia Tech, students participate through some form of distance learning. A limiting factor that impacted equity across Georgia was access. Many school districts simply did not have the proximity to a college to make this work. Where logistics have worked in the past, I know of few problems that would discourage this practice.

I would venture to say that today, with increased on-line courses, issues such as limited access due to proximity will be less of an issue. Colleges and universities (to include our technical colleges) are offering more and more courses on-line. Implemented correctly, this delivery model will provide for greater access to post-secondary learning all across Georgia.

A second issue that is surely to be challenging for some will be “how funding follows students.” A decade ago, such programs as HOPE or fee payments covered the cost of the dual enrollment program.

Secondary schools did not “lose” the funding for their student while they were away, thus, the program was really a “win-win-win” for the local school district, the student, and the college. Within the last 7 years, the program was changed so that only the college received funding during that period of time that a student was enrolled. In some if not many cases, the cost for this was picked up by HOPE.

Apparently, the new rules will somehow transfer the state educational earnings that go to the local high school to the college that the student is attending for that period of the day they are taking the college course. In no way intending to be cynical, as public school systems are not getting the funding while the high school student is attending the college class, but “the devil is always in the details.” Once again, implemented “right” this can be a plus for colleges, universities, and in some cases, school systems that are struggling to meet growing demands for advanced courses and where they are doing so, growing student populations. Done poorly, and the result will once again be a game of finger pointing. So, for blogging purposes, what do you think of dual enrollment?

Do you have an experience, positive or negative, that you would share regarding dual enrollment?

What are the pitfalls that you can see in this type of dual enrollment program?

Take part in the discussion by visiting www.forsyth.k12.ga.us.

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