July 15, 2024

I ran across this article about dual enrollment students via Inside Higher Ed. This is a hot topic in college circles these days, it seems. It also seems to be one of those areas in which two-year colleges and universities haven’t done a very good job of communicating with each other and/or hashing out agreements with one another before bringing students on board.

I feel for these students who think they have accumulated university credits while still in high school only to discover later that they still have to take those classes at the university. On the other hand, the universities refusing to allow dual enrollment credits to count toward degrees do have a point.

When I first realized this was such a controversial subject, I did not understand the big deal. I have dual enrollment students in my classes all the time, I thought, and I love them. They are motivated. They are higher level students even if they are a year or two younger. They are a pleasure to have around.

I still think that. The high school students and the returning adult students are my favorites. They are more often the ones who work the hardest.

But that’s really beside the point. First, the dual enrollment controversy is not so much about early admission to a two-year college for a person still in high school. The article linked above doesn’t say anything about universities refusing to accept college classes taken on the college campus with a college instructor. It’s talking instead about one class being counted twice. It’s talking about double-dipping, about a student counting the same class for both high school and college credit.

That is a questionable practice, and universities have every right to decide that one class can’t serve two purposes. They do that all the time even with classes taken on their own campuses. Refusing to allow a class that was applied toward high school graduation to also count toward college graduation is no different from refusing to allow a single class to count toward a minor and to count as an elective at the same time. It just doesn’t work that way.

If/when students are allowed to double-dip in that way, as apparently they are under the auspices of articulation agreements between two-year colleges and universities, it is the student in the end who doesn’t get a fair shake. Many students care more about finishing as fast as possible while they are actually working on a degree, but it’s still the university’s responsibility to see that they get all of the education the degree implies while they are there. Double-dipping runs counter to that mission.

Which begs the question of why so many two-year colleges are offering dual enrollment credits to start with? Easy answer. Money.

I’m going to use an example from my own school, not about dual enrollment, but about early admission, which is really what we’re talking about when there’s no double-dipping of credits involved.

We offer free tuition for one class at a time on the early high school admissions. That’s a big win for the student. Who wouldn’t try to go ahead and knock out some credits for free?

It’s also a win for the school. They don’t get tuition money from those students, but they do get state funding based on the credit hours generated. They also have an automatic recruitment tool to draw in some of the higher level students as full-time paying students the next year. Win win.

Since I’ve had such good experiences with the students in these cases, I’m in favor. Bring them on.

But here’s another scenario, which is very common and very controversial. A high school student enrolls tuition-free for college credit in a class taught by a high school teacher at his/her high school. The teacher uses a syllabus from the college to incorporate some of the same assignments being used on the college campus but is not really in contact with anyone teaching in the equivalent program at the college. The teacher isn’t paid by the college and doesn’t actually answer to the college since this is after all a full-time high school teacher answerable to the K-12 school district.

The college has spent nothing on the student while collecting state funds for the warm body count and awarding credit that may or may not later apply toward a university degree. That’s…um…interesting.

A lot of different practices get lumped under the term dual enrollment that aren’t nearly as controversial as this particular scenario. At my school, we refer to early admissions as dual enrollments even if we don’t mean at all that they are taking the class for dual credit. We also refer to offering certificate programs, which no one expects to transfer to a university, on high school campuses as dual enrollment programs. I can’t imagine anyone has a problem with that. Really. Win win all the way around.

But double-dipping on credit hours for university parallel classes that are actually following high school curriculums? Really? Why would we be surprised when universities balk at accepting those credits? Why should they accept them?

1 thought on “The Dual Duel

  1. Ole Miss didn’t give me credit for anything I did in high school, but they did let me bypass courses and move on to the more advanced course.

    This, in the end, probably served me much better than anything else they could have done.

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