By: Linda Chuvala, Educate.Today Team Member
High school has traditionally been the place to prepare for college, but for some of today’s students, high school has become a replacement for college, due to the increasing presence of dual enrollment programs. Dual enrollment, which allows students to enroll in college courses and receive credit while in high school, is increasing in popularity.
Students have a variety of courses to choose from including general education, vocational, and technical courses. Depending on the district, classes can be taken at a local college or university, high school or online. Tuition is offered at a reduced price, and students get a chance to experience the challenge of college coursework. The cost is usually divided between the school district, the higher education institution, and the student.
Dual enrollment can reduce the amount of time it takes for students to receive their degrees, and, in some districts, students can receive certifications upon graduation. Additionally, dual enrollment looks good on college applications. Students and parents, however, should be equally aware of the challenges of dual education, and be sure that the student is ready for these courses.
Parents should also ensure that the school districts and the colleges or universities are equipped to handle the financial burden, and can provide a quality education with the reduced budget that comes with dual enrollment programs. Students and parents should be prepared to pay at least a portion of tuition and book fees, and be prepared for the additional burden of time and finances incurred from commuting.
High school can be a busy and stressful time for students. The workload required in a college class is more intense than many high school classes, and students are expected to perform at the college level. The maturity of the student, as well as the intellectual capacity must be considered to ensure that dual enrollment is not a negative experience. Don’t forget that the grade received for dual enrollment courses will appear on the student’s permanent college record if the student’s chosen college or university accepts the credit. Therefore, students should inquire about what credit their prospective schools will accept.
School districts must also consider the pros and cons of dual enrollment programs. As the demand for dual enrollment increases, school districts must ensure that the funding will be available to all students who wish to participate. School budgets are already tight, and deficits can result in requests for tax increases or increasing deficits. Furthermore, districts that use their high school teachers as instructors are often challenged by the credentials required to teach dual enrollment classes, creating a teacher deficit.
Dual enrollment can have an impact on higher education institutions as well. While it increases enrollment, the tuition is usually at a reduced rate, and changes the dynamics of the institution’s finances. When high school teachers are used to teach these courses the cost can be mitigated, but often with credential requirements the Institutions must use their own instructors instead. Hiring more adjunct/part-time faculty frequently solves budget issues in higher education, but this has challenges as well. Often, adjunct instructors do not know their teaching assignment until days before the term begins, giving them less time to prepare.
As participation in dual enrollment increases across the country, parents, students and educational institutions should consider whether these programs’ costs outweigh the benefits. Are students ready to enroll in college classes, can school districts financially support the growing number of dual enrollment students, and can the college or university provide quality education when tuition is reduced? As students prepare to return to school, we might ponder: is this high school, or is this college?