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Jeff Meadors: Dual enrollment gives a clearer path through college

Complete College America says 62 percent of jobs in 2018 will require a two-year certificate or college degree. More than half will require a bachelor’s degree.

But there’s a problem. For every 10 freshmen seeking an associate degree, fewer than one graduate in three years. Currently in Georgia 34 percent of young adults ages 25 to 34 have a college degree.

Are Georgia students ready to work? Data show they are taking more credits than necessary and longer time than required for college completion.

Data from CCA show 54.5 percent of full-time students at Georgia’s two-year colleges returning for year two; 38.3 percent of part-time students do so. In Georgia’s four-year schools percentages are 82.2 percent and 52.4 percent, respectively.

Additional data show Georgia full-time students take on average 2.7 years to complete a one-year certificate with many taking 99 credits to complete a 30-credit certificate. Associate degrees are taking on average 3.9 years for full-time Georgia students to complete a roughly 60-credit program, but students are taking on average 92 credits to complete.

The average four-year degree takes 4.9 years in Georgia and students complete degrees with more than a dozen unnecessary credits, according to the national nonprofit.

But outliers do exist.

Data at the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships show dual enrollment students in the state of Oregon bucking these trends. Oregon data show dual credit students have higher college participation rates than high school graduates overall, continue to the second year at higher rates than freshmen who enter college without having earned dual credit, and earn higher first year GPAs.

Iowa research weighs in showing dual enrollment students 11 percent more likely to persist through the second year of college than non-participating students, 12 percent more likely to enter college within seven months of high school, and often 28 percent more likely to persist through the second year in college if taking 20 college credits or more.

A Columbia University study examined the records of more than 300,000 dual enrollment students in Florida and New York and found dual enrollment students more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college after high school, start college at a four-year institution full-time and stay in college at least two years.

The Columbia study found that three years after high school graduation students who had participated in dual enrollment courses earned higher college GPAs.

Florida’s Department of Education examined graduation rates of dual enrollment students over a four-year period in the late 1990s. Results found that dual enrollment students completed high school at rates 12 to 16 percent higher than their counterparts.

Dual enrollment at South Texas College increased from 425 students in 1999 to 8,400 by the fall of 2009, and supported aforementioned data on GPAs and completion rates for this population. A 2004 Texas study found 54.2 percent of dual enrollment graduates earning college degrees compared to 36.9 percent of non-DE grads, and 47.2 percent of DE graduates earned bachelor’s degree compared to 30.2 percent of non-DE grads.

The data is in and the message is clear: Students making the early leap to college have a competitive edge on those 2018 jobs.

Jeff Meadors holds advanced degrees in education from Emory University and has served in elected and appointed positions in the field. He may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com