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Workers across the nation are discovering that a high school diploma no longer leads to a job. Not just a good job, but any job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010), 13 of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the next ten years will require some type of postsecondary credential. Conversely, 18 of the 20 occupations with the fastest rates of decline will recquire no postsecondary credential.
Given this call for additional postsecondary training, it would seem logical that additional funding would be provided to accommodate this need. Not true. In fact, many states have cut funding to secondary and postsecondary systems. Kelderman (2010) reported that state appropriations in support of higher education fell by 3.4 percent in 2010, with further cuts projected.
The increased education demands of the workplace and the realities of state budget cuts are forcing many institutions to place increased importance on dual credit initiatives. These initiatives help facilitate the matriculation of high school students into technical programs without overtaxing institutional budgets.
Dual credit is defined by the National Center for Education Statistics (2007) as courses in which students are concurrently enrolled at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. Dual credit programs have proven to be an effective means of increasing access and success at the postsecondary level. Students who participate in dual credit courses indicate significantly higher educational aspirations (Smith, 2007) and are therefore more likely to matriculate to college. The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) published a report indicating that students who participated in dual enrollment programs were 11 percent more likely to persist into the second year of college (Swanson, 2008). Weinsheimer (2004) found that 66 percent of the licensed practical nursing (LPN) students who completed their LPN training in high school successfully completed a registered nursing program with a postsecondary institution.
Legislative bodies, community leaders, and K-12 school systems are seeking additional avenues for providing dual credit programs. This drive has led Maysville Community and Technical College (MCTC) to develop and refine its dual credit processes. We are experiencing large increases in the numbers of students who seek enrollment in dual credit courses (chart) yet have no additional personnel to meet these increased needs.
The development of partnerships to provide access, funding, and alternate delivery methodologies for dual credit students allows smaller community colleges to provide services to larger numbers of secondary students. Through partnerships with local secondary technology centers, online course delivery options, and tuition reduction/scholarship development, we have been able to accommodate many more dual credit students than ever before.
Through memorandums of agreement with our local technology centers and high schools, we have offered a significant number of technical dual credit classes taught by secondary teachers in secondary facilities. Courses are approved for dual credit if they meet the following three requirements: (1) The high school curriculum for each course receiving dual credit must align with the program/course curricula of our postsecondary courses. (2) Instructors must be credentialed at the appropriate level. (3) The facilities/equipment must be appropriate for college-level instructional support.
Since the costs associated with running the technical courses/programs are assumed by the secondary institution, we have no need to charge students an additional fee. Students who enroll in technical courses taught by secondary systems for dual credit are assessed no tuition.
We are also working to remove barriers from general education dual credit classes. In the past several years, we have begun to enroll students in online courses for dual credit. We have seen several benefits from this enrollment. Students have experienced online courses in a structured environment, had greater course selection, and explored courses such as astronomy, criminal justice, and medical terminology. By granting college credit as well as high school credit, these courses have also helped to provide a greater sense of worth to the senior year.
Providing access to general education courses also necessitates an examination of affordability. High school students are not eligible to receive federal financial aid. After many discussions with local secondary school leaders, we decided to lower our tuition for high school students to allow all students the opportunity to participate, not just students whose parents could afford to pay the out-of-pocket expenses.
Many school districts and local donors have matched our reduction in the form of scholarships and/or donations to further reduce or eliminate costs associated with dual credit enrollment. With these types of programs, students have access to dual credit based on ability, not socioeconomic status.
Dual credit is a wonderful opportunity to provide educational access and affordability to large groups of students. It does, however, present a unique set of challenges for administrators. Ensuring broad access while maintaining high levels of academic integrity involves a delicate balance. But with open minds and solid partnerships, we can give many students an opporunity to kickstart successful postsecondary experiences.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Occupational outlook handbook, 2010-11 edition. Retrieved June 4, 2010 from http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2003.htm
Kelderman, E. (2010). Stimulus money staved off deep cuts in state appropriations. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved May 31, 2010 from http://chronicle.com/article/Stimulus-Money-Staved-Off-Deep/63544
National Center for Education Statistics. (2007). Integrated postsecondary education data system glossary. Washington, D. C.: United States Department of Education
Smith, D. (2007). Why expand dual credit programs? Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 31, 371-387.
Swanson, J. (2008). An analysis of the impact of high school dual enrollment course participation on postsecondary academic success, persistence and degree completion. http://nacep.org/research-and-policy/research-studies#dual
Weinsheimer, J. (2004). Competitors collaborate to solve workforce shortages. AHA News, 40(18), 7.
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Juston Pate is Chief Academic Officer at Maysville Community and Technical College. For more information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.