Dual enrollment provides an opportunity for students to take college-level courses while still in high school, allowing them to earn college credits, experience higher education, and get a head start on their post-secondary journey. In a recent episode of our Credentials Unscripted podcast, we explored the impact of dual enrollment and the keys to a successful program with Dr. Rebecca De Leon, Associate Vice President of Dual Credit Programs and School Partnerships at South Texas College.
The Impact of Dual Enrollment
- Supporting the High School to College Transition: Dual enrollment acts as a bridge between high school and higher education. It eases the transition process for students by introducing them to college-level coursework and expectations, thus reducing the shock of entering a university while also giving them a head start.
“I myself completed 17 credit hours while in high school and had the benefit of being a semester ahead once I transferred over to the university. So it is a key impact for students, for their families, and overall success for the communities as well.”
- Financial Savings: Dual enrollment programs, like the one at South Texas College, often feature reduced or waived tuition fees, making college courses more affordable for students and their families. This helps alleviate the financial burden of higher education.
“Since 2000, we’ve waived tuition. It’s a board-approved policy that we waive tuition for the districts that sign an agreement with us. So it’s a win-win for the parents and the students.”
Building a Strong Dual Enrollment Program
South Texas College’s success in dual enrollment is attributed to its strong partnerships with school districts in the region. These partnerships are essential in overcoming challenges and ensuring the program’s effectiveness. Dr. De Leon explains that building these partnerships was not without hurdles. Convincing school districts to participate in dual enrollment required extensive efforts, and it was the support of the college’s president and board of trustees that made it possible. By waiving tuition, it removed one barrier to access and made partnering a no-brainer for many neighboring school districts.
“Our partnering districts are seeking more high school teachers that have the credentials because they’re in the classroom with the students day in and day out. And so what we did, we pursued some grant opportunities that the state has released and we’ve partnered to increase the credential completion of high school teachers to teach dual credit.”
Quality and Rigor
South Texas College’s dual enrollment program is accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), making it the only accredited program of its kind in the state of Texas. This accreditation validates the quality and rigor of the courses taught in high schools by approved high school teachers. It ensures that the courses maintain the same standards as those taught on the college campus.
“We are offering quality courses at the high school sites with approved high school college teachers. It’s not easy going through the accreditation process, but there’s a lot of key pieces and milestones along the way that help to validate and provide opportunities for students in the community.”
Dr. De Leon stresses the importance of guiding students along specific academic and career pathways. The program at South Texas College offers a variety of pathways, including traditional dual credit, career and technical education, and early college high schools. These pathways help students identify their goals and align their coursework accordingly, allowing them to earn credits, certificates, or associate degrees. To build an effective program that is accessible to all, dual enrollment should accommodate multiple pathways that students may pursue.
“For some it may be a few hours that they’re looking to complete, their basics, their core. For others, it’s transforming their lives with an associate’s degree…And it’s helping them and guiding them to know that there are options available for them to earn a degree of higher education.”
Advising and Guidance
Advising is a critical component of successful dual enrollment programs. South Texas College has a dedicated team of advisors who work closely with high school counselors to provide guidance and support to students. This collaborative approach ensures students make informed decisions about their academic and career paths.
“It’s continuous involvement… I have a department of 10 staff members specifically assigned work with partner high schools and their counselors. They’re day in and day out with the students, but they also have other roles and responsibilities aside from dual credit. So it becomes a collaboration between us.”
Transferability of Credit
South Texas College has also addressed the issue of course transferability. They offer students advice on how to ensure that their dual enrollment courses align with their future degree plans. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of students taking excess credits when they transition to college.
“One of the key pieces, especially with pathways, is making sure students are taking courses that apply to degrees. The state requires us to advise on transferability so a key piece is working very closely with our transfer center here at the college.”
Interested in learning more about the impact of dual enrollment? Check out the Credentials Unscripted landing page for full episodes, video content, and more. It’s also available wherever you listen to podcasts.