As the cost of college continues to climb, being able to complete academic programs on time is increasingly important. Being able to earn college credit in high school through dual enrollment programs can help better prepare students for college coursework – and cut down on the overall cost – but access to those programs could be significantly improved, according to a new report from ACT.
The report – released this week – lays out four policy recommendations for federal and state governments to improve both the access to and quality of dual enrollment programs. ACT in the report lists several advantages to taking dual enrollment courses, including the financial and preparation benefits, and overall college success. But as the courses have increased in popularity, some of the students who could benefit most are boxed out.
“We know that only one in 10 students from the poorest families take these courses, compared to one in four, on average, nationally,” said Scott Montgomery, vice president of policy, advocacy, and government relations at ACT, in a statement. “Our policy brief is the first of many steps we will take, with the assistance of several prominent national education organizations, to ensure all eligible students have the opportunity to take high-quality courses at minimal cost to them and their families.”
Low-income and first-generation college students could potentially benefit the most from taking dual enrollment courses – as the time to degree completion and transition to college coursework disproportionately affect those students – but most states do not adequately reduce the financial barriers blocking that student population from participating. In October, the Department of Education (ED) announced a pilot program to allow some students to access federal Pell Grant funds to take dual enrollment courses. Still, just eight states eliminate “all or most” tuition costs for dual enrollment students, according to ACT. In nine states, students are responsible for the full cost.
ACT recommended exploring funding mechanisms to expand program participation, and also using nonmonetary incentives to boost enrollment, such as requiring the completion of a dual enrollment course for graduation. The organization also recommended states provide resources for high school teachers to become certified to teach dual enrollment courses, either by developing a teacher improvement fund, or using federal professional development funds through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, for example.
The third and fourth recommendations centered around student preparation and support. ACT recommended that both students and their parents be required to meet with a counselor or program coordinator to discuss the challenges of college-level coursework, and the resources available. The group also recommended that states and school districts that do not have a college or university conveniently located nearby forge partnerships with institutions to give dual enrollment students access to some elements of the college experience (through hybrid delivery approaches, or two-way video conferencing, for example).
ACT worked with several partners to develop its recommendations, including: the American Association of Community Colleges, the Education Commission of the States, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Governors Association.
Publication Date: 12/17/2015