By Diana Simeon
Every student who wants to go to college has the same goal: earning a four-year degree. But these days, there are lots of different paths to get to that degree. And for parents and students who want to be as cost effective as possible, one alternative is quickly gaining ground: earning a four-year degree in less time with your state’s high school dual enrollment program. Dual enrollment allows students to take college courses in high school. Those courses count towards both high school graduation requirements and college credit.
High School Dual Enrollment
High school dual enrollment can mean big savings in time and money. “With Ohio’s College Credit Plus program, it’s possible to come into college with a semester or even a year of college done,” explains Cecilia Castellano, vice president of enrollment planning for Bowling Green State University. “At Bowling Green, you’ve just saved yourself $10,000 to $20,000.”
Interested? You’re not alone. Dual enrollment rates continue to grow across the country. “More and more high schools are offering it,” notes John Fink, a research associate with Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University. “And the research shows a net benefit for participants in terms of increased rates of going to college and in overall college performance.”
Here’s what parents need to know about dual enrollment.
1. It’s best for students planning on attending a state school.
In general, students who plan to attend an in-state public institution stand to gain the most from dual enrollment. That’s because in most states, public universities are required to accept the credits earned through the program, whereas private and out-of-state public institutions are not required to accept those credits (and often will not). That means your student may still have to take—and you will still have to pay for—that economics class she took via dual enrollment, if your student attends a private or out-of-state institution.
2. Make sure it’s right for your student.
While dual enrollment has a lot going for it, there are some potential cons, too. For starters, before signing up, parents should be sure their teenagers are ready to take college classes in high school—because your student’s grade will transfer to her college transcript. While an A or B will get her off to a great start in college, arriving with Cs will not (and those Cs will also hurt your student’s college prospects).
Students who plan to attend selective private or out-of-state institutions can still take advantage of dual-enrollment programs, but they need to be cautious. A general rule of thumb for these students is that it’s better to take the AP-or-equivalent class offered at your high school than to take a dual-enrollment class, which the most elite colleges may perceive as an easier academic route.
For students who plan to continue their education at an in-state public university — even the most selective in their own state—dual enrollment can be a better bet than AP because the credits are guaranteed to transfer.
3. It’s a nice way to explore before college.
High school dual enrollment has an important benefit, in Fink’s opinion: it allows students to try out different areas of study before they get to college. “Students can use dual enrollment to explore a topic,” he says. “And that sort of exploration is good.” In general, this kind of exploration can make students more focused when entering college, which increases the likelihood they’ll graduate in four years.
These days, there are many ways for students to successfully earn a bachelor’s degree. Keep your teenager focused on that goal, no matter which path they take, and before you know it, graduation day will be here.
Diana Simeon is Managing Editor of Your Teen.