A year ago, the Texas state legislature passed a bill that opened the door for increased dual-enrollment opportunities for high school students.
Charlotte Twardowski, director of educational services and partnerships at Lone Star College-North Harris, couldn’t be more pleased.
This spring, 3,755 high school students were enrolled at her campus through the dual-credit program. “We already maintained a large population of dual-credit students,” says Twardowski, “but now high schools outside of our service area are coming to us and saying, ‘We want our students to come there.’”
Through the new legislation, high school students in counties with more than 3 million residents can take classes at any community college once the high school and the college enter into an articulation agreement. The bill also ends restrictions on the number of classes students can take and allows them to take the classes in earlier grades, as long as the students demonstrate college readiness and pass the placement exams.
Fostering collaboration and flexibility
Once a dual-enrollment agreement is in place, the college sends student advisers to the high school to speak with administration, faculty, parents and students. The advisers help students submit their online applications to the college and set up their pre-assessment activities.
The legislation ensures that colleges and universities work with the independent school districts to collaborate on curriculum and program development.
“We need to make decisions collectively so students can be successful when they leave us — that they have the tools to read and make a schedule, form relationships with their professors and advocate for their own learning,” says Twardowski, referring not only to academics but also to the “soft skills” students need to succeed in college.
To be accepted into a dual-enrollment program, students must take a statewide college-placement exam at either their high school or their college. The $29 placement-exam fee is waived for high school students; if they must repeat the placement exam, they pay a reduced fee of $10.
Once students are accepted into the program, they have three options on where to take dual-enrollment courses:
- At their high schools in classes taught by Independent School District (ISD) teachers who are college approved
- At their high schools in classes taught by adjunct professors from the college
- At the college campus, to which students are bussed and at which they are matriculated into traditional classes
Historically, students in the top 25 percent of their class have been more likely to seek out dual-enrollment opportunities. In expanding dual enrollment through this legislation, the state is targeting the middle 60 percent of high school students, says Twardowski. “It’s open to anyone, but they have to qualify.”
Through dual enrollment, students can graduate from high school with 12 credit hours that will smoothly transfer to a Texas community college or four-year institution.