Tuesday, February 16, 2016


After Dual Enrollment

What happens to students after dual enrollment?

Dual Enrollment and Early College High School programs are gaining ground in the Northeast, having already established themselves as popular choices in much of the Midwest and South.  They come in a variety of flavors, but the general idea is that students in high school can take college classes for transcripted credit.  Frequently, the college classes also meet high school requirements, so a student taking a college-level math class is simultaneously fulfilling her high school math requirement.  

In some cases, high school students complete so many college credits while in high school that they graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time.  (Given the differing lengths of school year, sometimes the college degree comes a month or so before the high school diploma!)  Typically, programs in which students can earn the entire degree are called “Early College High School,” while programs with an a la carte approach are called dual or concurrent enrollment.  For simplicity, I’ll lump them all under “dual enrollment.”

The appeal of dual enrollment is severalfold.  For a high school, it can offer a way to keep high-achieving students from bolting for private schools.  It can also offer an alternative to AP or IB, both of which base success or failure on a single high-stakes test.  For parents who are concerned about cost, dual enrollment is usually less expensive than traditional college attendance, and unlike AP or IB, actually results in transcripted college credit.  For students, dual enrollment can offer a differentiator, a potential cost savings, and a way around what is often a relative academic wasteland in the senior year of high school.  High-achieving students have frequently done most of what they can do in high school by the senior year; spending a year in a holding tank while dreading college costs is a lot less appealing than just getting on with it and saving thousands of dollars.

That said, because my region is relatively new to the idea, I’m curious about how ECHS grads are treated when they arrive at four-year colleges.  They sort of fall between categories.

Are they freshmen?  They’re the traditional age for freshmen, and in terms of dorm life, they’re largely interchangeable with other 18 year olds.  But academically speaking, they’re juniors; they more closely resemble transfer students than “native” freshmen.  

That may seem like a picky distinction, but it matters.

Many scholarships, for example, are geared towards freshmen.  Some -- though far fewer -- are geared for transfer students.  (I’d LOVE to see more scholarships for transfer students, but that’s another post entirely.)  Depending on how a student is defined, her eligibility for scholarships will vary.

Many four-year colleges put “study abroad,” internships, or co-ops in the junior year.  A student arriving as an 18 year old junior confounds some of the expectations of that model.  “Welcome to campus!  You already missed the deadline for some great stuff!”  

Athletic eligibility may be limited, though I’ll admit that’s really not my wheelhouse.  I’ll leave that one to the folks who know it better.

Are they considered “first-time, full-time” for purposes of institutional graduation rates?

A colleague at a four-year school mentioned to me recently that his school is considering adding a third (and possibly fourth) year for these students and building in a Master’s degree.  That way they don’t have to start “adulting” until twenty-two, like everyone else, but they still reap a tangible reward for their efforts.  I’ll admit being intrigued by that one.

A couple of weeks ago I asked how dual enrollment students fare at admission.  This is the next question: what happens after they get there?  Any wise and worldly readers at four-year colleges that have been dealing with this for a while are invited to shed light.  In my neck of the woods, we’re still sort of figuring it out.

I can give my prospective as a dual enrollment instructor at a CC in Washington State.

For the purposes of the application process they are considered freshman applicants, needing to complete all the requirements of freshman admission (SATs, language requirements, etc.) This is to their advantage as their pool of competitors are high school seniors, who don't have nearly as many college credits on their transcripts as they do. Once admitted they are treated as freshman for orientation, class registration, dormitories, etc. But the moment they begin their first class their credits are activated and they have junior status.

Our students mostly earn scholarships for incoming freshman, but that is probably due the fact that there are more of those available. Even our students with an AAS degree will often do 3 years at their transfer institution, which gives them time to find study abroad opportunities. However, the junior status can be played up when applying to summer programs and internships in the summer between graduation and transfer.

While dually enrolled, the students athletic eligibility lies with their high school district so they have full NCAA eligibility upon transfer.

We have no transfer issues to in state public schools, due to our statewide transfer agreement. Larger private institutions have been fair in awarding credit for dual enrollment. The biggest hurdle we have is with selective liberal arts colleges, many of whom offer little to no transfer credit to classes that were dual enrollment. We've had several students turn down a SLAC because they have felt so disrespected by the SLAC not accepting their transcripted college credit because it was earned while dually enrolled.

These issues are endlessly debated on homeschool mailing lists, because many homeschoolers are taking a lot of community college credit while in high school. The mantra on the mailing lists is "It depends on the college—ask at the colleges your child is applying to." That mantra applies to all questions, but the most common answer for 4-year colleges is that credits taken while a high school student do not interfere with freshman admission and scholarships, but credits taken after high-school graduation do. Home school parents often schedule their children's graduation to make sure that credits are before high-school graduation.

Whether the dual enrollment credits count towards the 4-year degree also vary with the college, but most do count the ones that they would count for ordinary transfer students.

My son had a couple of community college course and a couple of UCSC courses while a high-schooler. These provided credits at UCSB, but did not get him out of any required courses (including a course that was nearly a duplicate of one he took at UCSC and got an A+ on).
I earned my AA/HS diploma through dual enrollment in the 90's, and these are real issues. I arrived at Large Flagship School as a junior.

Academically, it was fantastic - I jumped right into upper level courses that were the most interesting and had small class sizes, so I quickly got to know the professors in my field. As a strong student, I loved these classes, found great mentors, eventually ended up doing my MS and PhD. In fact, my senior year I even took graduate level classes and got most of my MS coursework done while finishing my BS! This allowed me to spend more time on my MS research and do a more challenging and interesting project, which has benefited my career immensely in a number of ways.

Socially, however, I missed out on having 3 summer internships to gain work experience, which would have helped me a lot. I was the "baby" in all my classes, or at least felt like it. I didn't get to study abroad, for the reasons you mentioned. I never met other freshman in classes, so I lacked the feeling of being the "class of 199X" and have never cared enough to give an alumni donation (although I do donate to my MS and PhD programs at my other alma maters where I did feel more camaraderie with my cohort). I was too young to go out for drinks with my classmates or with the grad students/professors in the lab I worked in, so I felt left out pretty regularly. I lost one private scholarship that had a maximum credit requirement (it was only $500, so that wasn't a huge deal). I wasn't assigned an academic advisor because those were only mandatory for underclassmen, but I sought out advisement anyway. If I hadn't, I would have some missed important course sequence info and deadlines.

My suggestion would be to make sure dual enrollment kids go through orientation, get advisors, and take at least one freshman class to meet their peers.

For the purposes of the application process they are considered freshman applicants, needing to complete all the requirements of freshman admission (SATs, language requirements, etc.) This is to their advantage as their pool of competitors are high school seniors, who don't have nearly as many college credits on their transcripts as they do. Once admitted they are treated as freshman for orientation, class registration, dormitories, etc. But the moment they begin their first class their credits are activated and they have junior status.

This was my experience almost exactly, though I didn't come in with quite as many credits (dual enrollment and AP credits gave me three semesters of credit as I entered university). I could have graduated in two and a half years (or two if I had taken summer school), but I decided to do three full years so that I could have more of the full experience, including a couple of jobs during one summer and an REU the other summer. There was the option to stay an extra year and add a master's degree (similar to how many schools offer a fifth year master's option), but most of my friends were graduating with me, so staying behind for an extra year wasn't appealing.

Unfortunately, not everybody has such a positive experience. A friend of mine accumulated a few college credits through dual enrollment and a handful through military service, and when he tried to apply to some public universities in California, he was told that he could not apply as a freshman because he had some college credits. At the same time, he couldn't apply as a transfer student because he hadn't completed two full years of college and fulfilled all of the transfer requirements. He said that he tried appealing to the colleges directly, trying to find some way to apply, but they wouldn't let him.
I had a friend with a bad experience doing this in Washington state. She was homeschooled for high school and did their early college option (running start?) while in high school. However, this was the "get your gen eds out of the way" model, and pretty much made her life hell as a physics major once she went to a 4-year school since it meant she had little in the way of easier non-majors classes left to mix in with the remaining physics classes. I know this can be a problem for regular 2-year transfer students as well, so it's not unique to HS students who dual enroll, but it certainly didn't do her in any favors.

On the other hand, as a math teacher, the main reason I've wanted to get such a thing set up at my high school is because I've seen kids choose taking more AP courses over taking an additional year of math after Algebra II because Pre-Calculus isn't an AP course. (In my state, you need three years of math at the Algebra I level and above to graduate, so the minimal autopilot sequence is Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II.)

I had a lot of reasonably good students choosing to not take math as seniors so they could take AP biology that period instead because in my district AP classes were graded on a 5.0 scale and everything else was on a 4.0 scale, and they were pretty sure they'd have an easier time getting a B in AP bio than an A in pre-calc (they were probably right). In my state (Oregon) our community colleges and public universities have a pretty strong common course numbering and transfer system (at least it works well in math, I've never looked into the other subjects) and I'd like to be able to talk them into taking precalc instead of a random AP class by them getting college credit for it. I know the snootier schools wouldn't always accept it (some of engineering-focused ones probably wouldn't take anything under calculus as a college-level math class regardless), but those planning on a cc or state university next would then be ready to take calculus as freshmen, which would certainly open more doors for them in terms of majors.
Florida has been very pro dual enrollment for a long time and every county has several magnet, "collegiate academy" high schools whose curriculum is geared toward ensuring graduating students earn an AA degree in addition to their HS diploma. At least within the public university system, and also with most private universities, students are treated very much as the dual enrollment instructor at a CC in Washington State described above.

I think Anonymous, who earned his/her AA/HS diploma through dual enrollment in the 90's, raised some great issues. As a parent of a soon-to-be high schooler who was considering one of the collegiate academy high schools I mentioned earlier, the desire for my child to "fit in" and have time to grow up and benefit from the socialization experience at university was very much on my mind.
Concurring with Jason951413, Florida is very pro dual-enrollment, and generally I find the students in the four-year states think of themselves as hybrid between year-of-attendence and year-on-paper (they tend to show up as sophomores, juniors, or seniors in our system). The hybrid awareness is probably a result of the fact that they have some awareness of their administrative/credit status.

There had been a push to let students do all of their distribution/core requirements in high school, but that ended up being an accreditation nightmare, as I understand it, and so some of those classes are still done when they transfer to or otherwise matriculate to the four-year.

There is a downside in terms of tuition, as after a certain number of credit hours are taken, the cost per credit hour goes up. I forget the precise point, but I have talked with some students who got hit by this. The intention behind that system may be good—dis-incentivize sticking around for no reason—but as the majors in my department tend to have tried a number of other majors (and are often dual or triple majors), they sometimes get hit by this in their senior year. Having dual-enrollment credits brings that deadline forward a bit.
I think an important element here has to do with the student's maturity level. Some students can do very well jumping in at the junior level, but in my experience, they are rare and like Anon @8:26, they struggle to fit in socially. I also saw a lot of ECHS students struggle with the work load not because they didn't have the academic chops but because they were dealing with all of the typical first-year transition issues but were in junior-level classes which required a greater ability to manage time and did not include any of the "transitioning to college" informal instruction we often build into first-year classes.

In my state (which, I noted two weeks ago, is different), students who enter four-year institutions with AA/AS degrees do not necessarily graduate much earlier. Our data showed that they generally took 6-8 semesters to finish because the AA/AS degrees were general degrees and certain degrees (engineering, for one) are very specifically four-year degrees.
I'll keep this short: A student is FTIC for college record keeping purposess based on HS graduation. Only college courses taken after HS grad, and whether the student was full time when doing so, count for that decision.

One thing you didn't mention is the implicit assumption the student will pass. I don't know if it is humanly possible for a HS student to fail an AP or honors class, but they can definitely fail a dual-enrolled college class. Not the place for the slacker.
I was one of those high school homeschool/early college hybrids, and it worked out reasonably well for me. I started at the CC part time at age 14, and went off to university at 17. I did that by transferring in as a Junior but without the AS, so some things transferred well and some did not. It did hurt my scholarship eligibility. I took 5 semesters at Uni, so I graduated (just barely) before age 20. Since I promptly went off to grad school, it was academically good to start young. That said, if I'd been able to get a paid for Master's at 22, I would've taken that in a heartbeat.
My daughter was a dual enrollment student her senior year. She purposely kept her credit load at 29 for the year so that she could apply to 4 year colleges as a freshman. (All the schools she applied to used 30 credits or more as the definition of transfer student.) She did this primarily so that she could compete for scholarships only offered to first year students. She could still opt to graduate early if she desires, but it made more sense to be classified as a freshman than a transfer student.
Now that I have the time, I want to add that I got immense benefit from taking all of calculus at a CC during my senior year. It wasn't enough to really change who was in most of my classes, but I was a year ahead in math. As others noted, that gave me the freedom to pick up some life-changing classes that led to my ultimate career moves, and the good thing was that I had college credit for major pre-reqs rather than vanilla gen eds. Because of where I went, I would have missed out on a LOT if I had skipped their freshman curriculum.

My college has a designated advisor for dual-enrolled students, and (from what I can tell) that person does a pretty good job getting them into courses that benefit them based on their planned transfer major. I have no idea what HS counselors know about transfer requirements for different majors, but ours know what is needed. That is much better for good STEM students than some random AP gen-ed classes in the liberal arts that are not math and science. The real winners seem to be home school kids, many of whom enroll and finish an AA with us before moving to a university. (And become FTIC grads for us!)
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