News: CJ Exclusives

Combining ‘Dual Enrollment’ Programs Promises Efficiency

Community colleges want to make it easier for K-12 students to take classes

North Carolina’s state politicians love the idea of “dual enrollment” — high school students taking community college classes while still in high school. In fact, they love it so much that over the last few years they have created an array of different programs for implementing it.

Now, the state’s community college and K-12 public education systems are moving to consolidate the programs. Officials hope that this will make them easier to access and more useful for the students who enroll.

Career and College Promise, the consolidation initiative, began as an item in Gov. Bev Perdue’s state of the state speech last February. It was passed by the General Assembly as part of the budget in June. The program’s official guidelines say that CCP will provide “seamless dual enrollment educational opportunities” for high school students to obtain “college certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees that lead to college transfer or provide entry-level job skills.”

What used to be five programs — and a hassle for high school guidance counselors — will be rolled into one, with the process already under way. A sixth program, the Intellectually or Academically Gifted program, is getting the ax as part of the new initiative.

The five dual enrollment programs remaining — Huskins, Learn and Earn, Learn and Earn Online, Concurrent Enrollment, and Cooperative Innovative High School — all involve different formats and target somewhat different groups of students. Some let let students stay on high school campuses, while others expect students to go to community college campuses; some target advanced students, and others reach out to “at-risk” students. This is a legacy of the somewhat haphazard way legislators and governors have approached dual enrollment since it began in the state more than a decade ago.

With passage of CCP, the five current programs will be revamped to form three “pathways” within the “overarching” pathway of CCP, according to Sharon Morrissey, chief academic officer of the community college system. Referring to North Carolina’s dual enrollment programs, Morrissey told the Pope Center, “I think everybody was pretty frustrated with the myriad of programs.”

The new program, she hopes, will ease that frustration. After CCP is implemented, “High school guidance counselors will have clear guidelines regarding eligibility requirements and available program pathways,” Morrissey said.

More important, proponents claim that the new program will ensure that the credits students earn count toward a credential. “Often, dual-enrolled students would end up with credits that didn’t count toward their major after they graduated from high school and enrolled in a university,” said Morrissey. “Under Career and College Promise, students who want to transfer will be in structured pathways that lead to specific major fields.”

There’s one pathway for those intending to transfer to a college (with different sets of courses for different majors), one for career technical education, and the cooperative innovative high school programs (also known as early and middle college high schools).

The program also intends to do a better job of keeping students on track. Unlike the previous system, “the eligibility requirements extend beyond course prerequisites,” said Michelle Gladman, a sociology professor at Durham Technical Community College who has taught dually enrolled students. Under CCP, students will have to maintain a 2.0 GPA after two courses and make continual progress toward a diploma.

Gladman also said that CCP would be more selective than the previous programs in terms of the students it admits. “There is no wiggle room under Career and College Promise.”

The program officially went into effect Jan. 1, though many college/high school groups will implement the program only partially this spring. By the fall semester of 2012, all North Carolina institutions offering dual-enrollment classes will have to follow the new guidelines.

Duke Cheston is a reporter and writer for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.