eStem Public Charter School announced Aug. 17 that it plans to relocate its high school to the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. This situation is really a win-win for both parties.
The college will be able to establish a relationship and identify with students early on, with the hopes of increasing their chances of becoming the student’s pick for his or her four-year education. The high school will vastly increase the college credit courses that will be available for its students. This win-win situation is very popular across the country and here at home, but how does it work?
Everyone wins when students receive opportunities for college credit.
For the high school, students can be enrolled in several ways. A concurrent-enrollment movement allows colleges to work with high schools to select teachers with master’s degrees who will teach college credit classes on the high school campus. This model is very popular because students are working with instructors whom they know in an environment in which they are comfortable. Additionally, the students remain on the high school campus, saving the high school transportation costs and time.
The dual-enrollment movement allows students the opportunity to work alongside college students by bussing them onto the associated campus. The third and newest model is the online-enrollment program. This serves as a win-win because the high schools do not have to provide a credentialed instructor or transportation and there is great flexibility in student scheduling. Students report to the high school library, log directly into the online college class and do all the work via computer with college professors.
These concurrent, dual and online models are growing in popularity with school districts because there is a certainty of college credit for successfully passing a course.
For Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs, students must also pass a nationally standardized assessment with a certain score to receive credit for the course. In other words, the student may pass the course and complete the semester of work, but then fail to get college credit for it if he or she does not also pass the national exam. It is not to say that concurrent, dual or online models are less academically rigorous, but there is more certainty of the student receiving college credit.
It is easy to see why the high schools are so interested in offering these college credit opportunities to their students, but what is in it for the college?
Much as UALR is doing with eStem, colleges desire to become the student’s first choice for pursuing higher education. The colleges rationalize that with positive interaction early on, the more likely it is that the student will select that institution. Moreover, with the current fiscal climate, institutions are seeking creative ways to increase their enrollments, and these enrollment programs are ideal offerings to increase the headcount. Finally, institutions desire to serve as strong community partners with their other educational counterparts.
So, what are the drawbacks?
These classes are for college credit, so there can be a lasting impact on the student’s grade point average, which is why the selection process for prospective students is vital. Most schools have protocols that include high school GPA requirements, SAT/ACT minimum scores and teacher recommendations to ensure the greatest likelihood of success. Another issue can be graduation rankings at the high schools. Because the race to valedictorian is so competitive, consideration is often given to whether or not the high schools have applied a 4.0 or a 5.0 weighting to the college courses. It is the clear that the pros outweigh the cons for those who are prepared for college-level work early in their educational careers.
There is still a huge benefit that we have yet to discuss and that is the cost savings to the overall four-year degree.
High schools like Lakeside, near Hot Springs, and Greenbrier have developed pipelines providing opportunities for students who begin concurrent, dual or online credit programs in the ninth and 10th grades to receive their two-year associate’s degrees prior to graduating from high school. This can sometimes reduce the cost of a bachelor’s degree in half.
In fact, some school districts cover all the tuition costs for these concurrent, dual and online enrollees. While it will not be the norm that all students are ready to begin college at the ripe-old age of 15, kudos should be given to those high schools who make a conscious effort to hire teachers with master’s degrees, which form the groundwork for this opportunity.
Are you ready to enroll? Contact your local high school and ask what concurrent, dual and online opportunities might be available.
Rockwell’s Recommendation: All state colleges accept dual enrollment students; do yourself a favor by having your student check this generous opportunity to get a head start on college.