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Making Dual Enrollment Work for Rural Colleges

By AACC Staff

Report says early college high school programs could give a boost to students in remote communities, provided administrators implement them effectively.

In the quest to improve college readiness and, ultimately, to boost college completion, few practices have received more attention in recent months than so-called dual-enrollment programs; the arrangements allow students to earn college credits while still in high school.

A report released by the National Center for Education Statistics last year (NCES) estimated that as of the 2010-11 academic year (most recent data) 96 percent of public two-year community colleges offered some form of college credit to high school students through a dual-enrollment program.

Across the country, state lawmakers have stressed the use of dual enrollment as a launching pad to college success. In April, we reported an effort by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to boost participation in dual-enrollment programs across his state. Though dual enrollment has become increasingly popular in Ohio, a 2013 report from the state’s Board of Regents found that not all institutions were using the programs effectively.

Now, a new report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) examines the effectiveness of early college high school programs in the nation’s rural communities. While dual-enrollment programs can potentially boost the number of students who attend college in these locations, researchers say a lack of teaching resources, limited funds and other logistical challenges often keep these programs from achieving their vast potential.

Want to learn more about making dual-enrollment programs work in rural communities? What follows is an excerpted version of a story that first ran on AACC’s Community College Daily.

Overcoming challenges

In Wyoming, administrators are expanding the number of instructors eligible to teach college courses through an adjunct professor loan repayment program administered by the Wyoming Community College Commission.

The loans help high school teachers complete the credits they need to teach postsecondary-level courses. Teachers who finish the program and teach at least one concurrent enrollment class in a Wyoming public school for at least two years don’t have to repay the loan.

In Texas, a state law authorizes the Texas Workforce Commission to provide funds to community colleges and other institutions for dual-enrollment programs that lead to a technical credential or certificate in a high-demand occupation.

To boost access to dual-enrollment options on remote campuses, some college have started to explore the value of online or blended learning programs.

ECS urges caution, however, citing students’ need for face-to-face interactions with teachers, broadband limitations, limited access to student support services and a lack of opportunity for collaborative projects.

Utah’s solution to this problem is the newly enacted Snow College Concurrent Enrollment program, which provides dual-enrollment courses that lead to an associate degree by way of interactive videoconferencing. Other colleges have attempted to address logistical challenges by offering dual-enrollment programs at third-party locations, including local workforce training centers.

Access to tribal colleges

ECS makes specific recommendations to improve access to dual-enrollment courses delivered by tribal colleges. It’s critical because Native American students are least likely of any group to pursue postsecondary education.

Only 33 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native males expect to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 53 percent of all males in public schools, according NCES.

Among the 12 states that have tribal colleges, only Michigan, New Mexico, Washington, Montana and Wisconsin explicitly allow those colleges to take part in dual enrollment programs. ECS urges other states to do so.

While some dual-enrollment programs, such Running Start in Montana, are available at tribal colleges, it’s difficult for many rural students to get to those campuses. As an alternative, the report recommends tribal colleges be allowed to deliver dual enrollment courses at a high school, which is done in Washington state, or through an online, videoconference or blended model.

Does your college offer dual-enrollment programs for students? Tell us in the Comments.

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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