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32 THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE ADMISSION

Moving the Needle
Dual Enrollment is Fast Becoming The Norm

SUMMER 2017 33

Moving the Needle
Dual Enrollment is Fast Becoming The Norm

By Elaina Loveland

34 THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE ADMISSION

Stephanie Mui completed her master’s degree in mathematics at George
Mason University (VA) this May—before her high school graduation from
Virginia’s Oakton High School in June.

She is the youngest-ever master’s degree graduate from the university—
and it was made possible by a dual enrollment program.

It all began in fourth grade when Mui was told she could skip math class.
In the summer of her fifth grade year, she enrolled in a dual enrollment
program Northern Virginia Community College. Taking classes online and
taking one or two classes a semester and two each summer, Mui finished her
associate degree by age 13.

She then transferred to George Mason University and earned her
bachelor’s degree in mathematics in the summer of 2016—before starting her
senior year in high school. Her age never became an issue. She never told her
classmates she was younger than they were—and she blended in just fine.

“I really felt like a normal college student with a normal college
experience,” said Mui, about having finished her college and graduate
degrees so early. “And it feels pretty good.”

BENEFITS
While Mui’s story is aspirational, dual enrollment programs offer a wide
range of students many advantages.

Many families would say cost savings is at the top of the list. “There
is a huge cost savings to students and families, and students have the
opportunity to experience college in high school and it shortens their path to
their degree,” said Yvette LeMore, director of the Lewis and Clark Community
College High School Partnership/Dual Enrollment Program in Illinois.

And for specific student populations, dual enrollment can help with
college preparation.

“Students, particularly those who are preparing to be first-generation
college students, gain a great deal of confidence by being successful in these
courses, knowing that they can negotiate challenging texts and ideas and
take more ownership over their own learning,” said Christina Parish, director
of Syracuse University’s Project Advance.

But the perhaps the most remarkable benefit of dual enrollment is that it
cultivates a college-centric perspective—one rooted in success.

“I think it’s important to recognize that as we increase the numbers of
students going on to college, we also need to be focusing on college success
and getting a few of these courses under your belt has a very significant
impact on your academic momentum,” said Adam Lowe, executive director
of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, the sole
accrediting body for concurrent enrollment partnerships.

Parish added that dual enrollment is “a great way to jumpstart one’s
college career.”

AACRAO’s Dual Enrollment in the Context of Strategic Enrollment
Management shows that 63 percent of colleges say completing dual
enrollment courses improves the likelihood of being accepted to college.

And after they are accepted, these students have a better idea of what to
expect and are therefore more successful.

“Skills like syllabus navigation, advocating for yourself to your professor,
understanding that in college there are typically fewer assignments and
therefore the assignments that you do have a greater weight, and you need

to put your 100 percent best effort into those assignments are essential
understandings for any student going into college,” said Michael Dunn,
director of college counseling at AIM Academy (PA).

MANAGING RISK
“Students participating in these programs do generate a college transcript,
and so poor performance in a course can have some negative impact in the
longer run,” said Lowe.

Lowe advises school counselors to work and make sure students and
families are aware that there is some risk to having a poor grade, but “at the
same time show them the value of stretching themselves academically.”

Many dual enrollment programs closely monitor their student’s academic
performance to mitigate the risk of a student not performing well and earning
a poor grade.

To help make sure students on track academically, Dunn plays the role of
a student support advocate in AIM Academy’s dual enrollment program with
Cabrini College (PA). Twice a week, he hosts study hall sessions at Cabrini in
the library for the students.

“We talk about how things are going in classes, how their notes are going,
what method they use to take notes and whether it’s effective, and how they
are studying for their next test,” explained Dunn.

If a student consistently performs poorly, Dunn pays close attention to the
course withdrawal date so the student can withdraw from the course before
the deadline.

Kent Scheffel, vice president of enrollment at Lewis and Clark Community
College (IL), said that the state allows the Lewis and Clark’s High School
Partnership/Dual Credit Program to withdraw dual credit students from
courses on a later date than typical college students. Having a later withdraw
date can allow students who are doing poorly to avoid a low grade appearing
on their transcript.

“Parents and students need to realize early on that it really is a college
course with the same rigor and standards and they need to take it seriously or
it can have long-term implications,” said Scheffel.

The University of Connecticut’s UConn Early College Experience program
goes a step further to help mitigate risk.

Students who earn a C or higher receive credit for their UConn courses. If a
student earns a C- or below, the grade converts to an audit on their transcript.

“This opens up the opportunity to take these courses with a little bit of
a safety net,” explained Brian A. Boecherer, executive director of University

DUAL ENROLLMENT ADVANTAGES
• Earn college credit in high school at no cost to the student
• Take challenging courses in subject areas that high school may not offer
• Explore subject areas for possible future careers
• Learn new and enhanced skills needed for college courses work
• Take classes in the summer
• Earn credit in transferable courses

Adapted from a list provided by Lisa Harper, director of College Credit Plus at
the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

i

SUMMER 2017 35

of Connecticut’s Office of Early College Programs and UConn Early College
Experience program. “This policy aligns with transfer credit policies—where
classes with a C or higher would transfer to another university. The same
principle is applied for our students for transferred courses.”

AN OPTION FOR ALL
Lowe said that dual enrollment programs aren’t just for high-achieving
students, like they were several decades ago.

“We as an organization recently adopted a vision where we made very
clear that we believe these courses and programs ought to be available to all
high school students, rather than being available solely to the high-achieving
students,” explained Lowe.

Lowe also emphasizes that there are several models of postsecondary
education that dual enrollment programs fit into.

“‘College’ means any postsecondary education, and in this day in age,
there are a lot of very high-value associate programs and high-value
certificate programs that community and technical colleges offer that are
often available through dual enrollment,” said Lowe.

AIM Academy sees dual enrollment as such an advantage to students
that 100 percent of its seniors participate in a dual enrollment program in
partnership with nearby Cabrini College.

The formal partnership between the school and Cabrini College began six
years ago. The AIM Academy approached local universities directly to form
a dual enrollment program because they wanted to prepare their students
for the rigors of college coursework “without dropping them off in the deep
end,” Lowe explained.

“Part of our philosophy is that we view dual enrollment as experiential
learning for how to be a successful college student,” said Dunn. “We want all
of our graduating students to walk away with the most solid understanding
of what they’re going to need to do during their early years at college to be
successful in the classroom.”

A growing number of high schools even host dual enrollment in the building.
For example, Syracuse University’s Project Advance (SUPA) trains

qualified high school teachers teach university courses during their regular
high school day.

Parish, Project Advance’s director, outlines how teachers train at a Summer
Institute. “SUPA teachers spend the week working very closely with our SU
faculty to become familiar with the courses, which benefits students’ college
readiness. There is a constant dialogue and close collaboration between
faculty across secondary and postsecondary institutions.”

Lewis and Clark’s High School Partnership/Dual Credit Program has
approximately 2,000 students participating each year. This state-funded
program allows high school students to learn without leaving their building.

Dual enrollment is also a great fit for homeschoolers.
Melinda Stewart, an independent counselor in Littleton, Massachusetts,

has worked with community colleges to help homeschool students achieve
associate degrees before they graduate from high school.

“It’s difficult to get an accredited [high school] diploma as a homeschooled
student,” explained Stewart. Having the degree makes it much easier for
these students to transfer.

Photo of Stephanie Mui, courtesy George Mason University

“Students… gain a great deal of confidence by
being successful in these courses, knowing that
they can negotiate challenging texts and ideas and
take more ownership over their own learning.”

36 THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE ADMISSION

Some students fulfill the requirements for an associate degree but take
the courses as high school courses rather than for college credit, so they can
apply to universities as freshman.

STATES TAKING THE LEAD
Minnesota launched the first statewide dual enrollment initiative in the
1980s. Three other states—Arkansas, Virginia, and Utah—were early to take
dual enrollment programs statewide, and many more states have started
programs since.

Ohio launched a dual enrollment initiative College Credit Plus as in the
2015–2016 academic year. Twenty-three community colleges, 13 universities,
and 35 private higher education institutions participated.

The cost savings in just one year of the statewide program is considerable.
The Ohio Department of Higher Education reported that in the 2015–16
academic year—the very first year of the program—more than 52,000
Ohio high school students took college classes earning college credit while
meeting their high school graduation requirements, collectively saving more
than $110 million on college tuition.

Ohio knows this is worth the investment.
“Advantages for Ohio include having citizens who have acquired

education beyond high school, industry-recognized credentials, and
degrees,” said Lisa Harper, director of College Credit Plus at the Ohio
Department of Higher Education.

“This program is one strategy to help Ohio move the needle on the
attainment goal of having 65 percent of its citizens with a degree, certificate,
or other postsecondary workforce credential of value in the workplace by
2025,” she said.

COUNSELOR CONNECTION
School counselors are the link to both developing and established dual
enrollment programs.

“School counselors play a huge role in terms of facilitating getting students
in these classes,” said Lowe. “We see a number of places where school
counselors are really the glue for our program, and are sometimes even called
a site director for a concurrent enrollment program.”

For school counselors who want to explore developing their own dual
enrollment programs, Dunn said to look beyond the local community college.

“There are lots of small liberal arts schools all around the country that
would love to have high school students,” said Dunn. “We found that
the liberal arts institutions in our area have been really supportive of our
students, and offered much different opportunities for them than community
colleges have offered.”

Dunn also encourages school counselors to have the conversation about
college preparation versus transfer of credits. “If the goal is to transfer
credits, maybe the community college is a fine option, but if the goal is to
prepare kids for college, then I would say a liberal arts school might be a
better option.”

No matter the formula, Mui, who will attend New York University to
pursue a PhD in mathematics in the fall, said that balance is key for students
who want to earn college credit in high school.

“With dual enrollment, you need to learn how to keep a balance in your
life,” advised Mui. She said when students choose true academic interests,
time management will fall into place.

Elaina Loveland is a freelance writer and the author of Creative Colleges:
Finding the Best Programs for Aspiring Actors, Artists, Designers, Dancers,
Musicians, Writers, and More.

“We see a number of places where school
counselors are really the glue for
our program, and are sometimes even
called a site director for a concurrent
enrollment program.”

• Providing professional development.
• Advancing ethical standards of conduct.
• Promoting equity and access to higher

education for all students.

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