This article originally appeared at the Community College Daily.
Significantly more Maryland high school students are earning college credit before graduating high school, according to the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC).
Dual enrollments at the state’s 16 community colleges jumped 20 percent in fall 2014 compared to the prior year. Dual enrollment programs allow students to simultaneously enroll in high school and college, the association reported. During each semester of the 2014-15 academic year, more than 5,000 Maryland high school students took college courses for credit at their local community colleges.
Discounted tuition, plus college credit earned in high school, can give students a head start on college and career, and can significantly improve college affordability and reduce student debt, according to MACC.
“Saving time and money is just part of what dual enrollment is all about,” Bernie Sadusky, MACC executive director, said in a press release. “Dually enrolled students, especially at-risk students, often improve high school performance and are more likely to complete college than peers who are not dually enrolled.”
A better understanding
Many students enter college without a clear understanding of academic expectations, and unforeseen challenges can quickly derail college plans, MACC said. This is especially true of less-affluent and first-generation students who may lack access to family members with college experience. Dual enrollment programs provide a test run without the high stakes and high tuition of full college enrollment.
Maryland’s dual-enrollment students receive a minimum discount of 25 percent off community college tuition on their first four courses. Discounts vary by county, but can run as high as half to almost full tuition, depending on available additional local grant funding. Students participating in the state Free and Reduced Meal Program receive free tuition on their first four community college courses.
Several Maryland community colleges offer a special type of dual enrollment program called early or middle college. Early college programs allow enrolled students to concurrently earn both a high school diploma and an associate degree (or 60 credits toward a bachelor’s degree) while they are in high school.
Early college curriculums are more rigorous than regular high school, but save students both time and money because two degrees are earned concurrently. Prince George’s Community College, Hagerstown Community College and the Community College of Baltimore County all offer early college programs. Students enrolled in Howard Community College’s early college program receive 30 credits toward their college degrees per the agreement with the local county school system.