Jeff Meadors: Dual enrollment as an economic driver

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

EdNews Colorado reports that 24,000 -- or 19 percent -- of Colorado's high school students participated in dual enrollment last year; 85 percent of them enrolled in college after high school graduation.

These same students had higher first-year grade-point averages (2.66) compared to students who had not taken college courses in high school (1.89).

Studies from Oregon, Texas and Florida show dual enrollment students completing college at rates as high as 28 percent greater than non-dually enrolled counterparts.

By leveraging dual enrollment to generate a workforce where four-year degree completion is high, leaders in these states assume the driver's seat when luring businesses to town.

Just ask Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah.

Herbert recently attributed the choice of his state by software giant Adobe to higher learning, "They were drawn to our state in part because of our highly educated workforce and proximity to more than 100,000 students at nearby institutions of higher learning."

Also this month, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont made dual enrollment a large part of his plan for educational reform. Shumlin also seeks to expand the number of students who simultaneously complete their senior year of high school and first year of college.

Georgia's dual enrollment numbers have lagged behind many states, but with full funding now in place, the program is no longer financially punitive for high schools, and the new annual score card rewards high schools when students dually enroll.

The program is tuition-free, doesn't count against HOPE, and a 3-semester hour college class returns to Georgia high schools as a full Carnegie Unit. Thus, students aiming for Zell Miller Scholarship eligibility get extra bang for state bucks if they keep their grades up.

Rob Jenkins, author of "Building a Career in America's Community Colleges," argues the case for dual enrollment in his recent contribution to the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jenkins argues that dual enrollment programs remain popular and are likely to become even more so as increasing numbers of parents grasp the benefits.

Most dual programs have SAT or ACT and a core GPA requirement, and only a handful of SAT and ACT test administrations are left before fall 2013 admission to college, so students need to get their game on if they want to take the leap.

But any old school won't do. Emerging research shows it matters greatly where students dually enroll.

National Center for Postsecondary Research studies show dual enrollment to have strong positive effects on college enrollment and completion, but the effects are driven by where students take classes and by which classes they take.

Most students find the following classes at a college like Georgia Perimeter to be good options with 100 percent transferability within the USG: English 1101, English 1102, Political Science (satisfies American Government for high school), U.S. History and economics (students take EOCTs at the high school), Math 1111, Math 1113 (supports accelerated students), chemistry, biology and physics.

For more information on the content of this column, email Jeff Meadors at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com