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Definitions of Dual Enrollment


“How many students do you have in dual enrollment?”


You’d think that would be a straightforward enough question.  And it is, once we’ve agreed on a definition of “dual enrollment.”  But getting broad agreement on definitions is a challenge.


That’s because “dual enrollment” isn’t just one thing.  Typically, it refers to a course carrying “dual” credit for both high school and college, but that’s only the beginning.   Dual enrollment comes in many different flavors, with new ones developing all the time.  Each brings its own quirky issues.  I’ve seen each of the following models at one time or another:


High School Student on College Campus.  This is the classic version.  The senior year of high school is widely considered problematic, because so many students have much more time in the day than they have graduation requirements left to fulfill.  This model has the virtue of simplicity, at least from the college’s perspective.  But transportation is often an issue, and when logistics force large clusters of high school students into the same section, it can create issues of classroom climate.  


College Professor Teaches in High School.  This is the flipped version of the high school student on the college campus.  It can work, but the logistical issues are significant.  Differences in academic calendars and class times can wreak havoc on the best intentions.  In practice, this can work brilliantly, but only when the logistics are favorable for the professor in question.  In other words, it works where it works, but it’s hard to scale.


High School Teacher is Deputized as College Adjunct.  (NACEP refers to this model as “concurrent enrollment.”) This solves the logistical issue nicely; the high school teacher is there, on the same schedule, already.  Sometimes it can create issues around instructor qualifications.  For instance, we generally require a master’s degree for faculty, outside of some specific vocational areas.  Many high school teachers have master’s in education, with bachelor’s in the subject area.  Sometimes they don’t even have that.  This model can work well, but doing it right requires ensuring that “home” college departments keep an eye on things.  For instance, in English Comp, some “norming” workshops for instructors can go a long way. 


Online.  For obvious reasons, this is how our dual enrollment is working right now.  It gets around the usual transportation issues, which is nice, and asynchronous classes can work well when students have, say, athletics and/or part-time jobs.  This format also has the considerable benefit of allowing smaller cohorts of students from each of several schools into the same section, thereby enabling viable class sizes even when a given high school’s contingent might number in the single digits.  In terms of results, the jury is still out on this one, but I’m optimistic.


All of these models so far bring issues of funding.  Who pays the tuition?  Who pays the instructor?  Which school gets credits for the FTE’s?  These can get complicated quickly.


Early College High School.  The versions of this I’ve seen, including at my own college, involve the students getting their high school diploma and their associate’s degree at the same time.  That typically involves starting as early as ninth grade, though the courses don’t really kick in fully until the eleventh grade.  It takes highly dedicated students to make this work, as well as faculty who are comfortable working with fifteen year olds.  It also takes a non-trivial amount of academic support.  My advice for any college considering this model is not to skimp on tutoring.  We’ve already developed a couple of articulation agreements with four-year schools to capture these graduates and enroll them in three-year programs, wherein they graduate with master’s degrees in three years.  That reduces the opportunity cost of graduate school.  


Middle College.  The version I’ve seen of this one, which we’re also starting to use, reduces the goal of 60 college credits by the end of high school to 30.  Effectively, it starts in the eleventh grade, and students graduate with the equivalent of the first year of college under their belts.  I’m personally a fan of this model for two reasons.  It gives the students a little more time to mature before they start, and it doesn’t lock them into a major.  We build the 30 credits around the gen ed classes that transfer easily: English comp, math, intro to psychology.  Early results are encouraging.


AP/IB/CLEP: We don’t usually think of AP and IB as dual enrollment, but they function similarly.  They bring with them the upsides and downsides of standardized tests.  On the upside, as with any prior learning assessment, we don’t need to care about teacher qualifications.  If a student gets a “5” in AP English, we don’t ask who taught the class.  The tests are nationally normed (or, in the case of IB, internationally normed), so we don’t need to worry about rigor.  Colleges don’t get any direct revenue from these, but we know that students who start off with credits are likelier to complete, so I suspect we make it up on the back end.  


Competency-Based.  Stay tuned…


I mention all of these to suggest that it isn’t as easy as a simple question would assume.  


Wise and worldly readers, I’m sure I’ve missed several other flavors.  What would you add?


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Tuesday, December 8, 2020
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