Monday, March 13, 2017


Financial Aid for Dual Enrollment

Why is there no financial aid for dual enrollment classes?

This should be a no-brainer.

I’m using “dual enrollment” here to cover both “dual” and “concurrent” enrollment programs.  Either way, high school students take college classes and get credit for both high school and college.  The idea is to encourage students to raise their aspirations, and to get some college credits under their belts.  (In the case of “Early College High School” programs, they may even get an associate’s degree before graduating high school.)  

Dual enrollment can serve multiple purposes.  For low-income students and students from really struggling school districts, it can be a means of escape.  For extremely talented students, it can be a way to maintain academic challenges after they’ve bumped up against the ceiling of what their high school can offer.  (For the math whiz who takes AP Calculus as a sophomore, dual enrollment as a junior is much more productive than just sitting on her hands for two years.)  For students for whom high school is a social nightmare, dual enrollment can be a lifesaver.  And for most students, dual enrollment can show selective institutions that a given student is academically serious, and capable of doing demanding work.  

For high schools that are struggling with tight budgets, dual enrollment could be a way to maintain a rigorous honors program.  It can offer subjects that high schools generally can’t.  

And it can be a welcome antidote to senior-itis.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

But dual enrollment students aren’t eligible for financial aid.  Unless they’re lucky enough to find a grant-funded program -- like Brookdale’s Poseidon program with the Neptune school district -- they (or their families) have to pony up.  That effectively rules out many students who would otherwise benefit, including some who would benefit the most.

It’s a shame. We have plenty of high schools and high school students who want to try college classes. We have colleges that are happy to oblige. We have financial aid programs, like Pell grants, to help low-income students. But we can’t connect the dots.

As long as students or their families have to pay full freight, even at community college tuition levels, we’re effectively ruling out many students from working-class families.  These are precisely the students who could benefit the most from getting a head start on college while living at home.  Instead, they’re confined to high school while their friends, who had the foresight to be born to wealthier parents, leap ahead.  

What social good that achieves is beyond me.

I suppose someone might object on the grounds of double-dipping, but that strikes me as short-sighted.  For students who would go on to college anyway, they would get both kinds of support anyway.  For those who wouldn’t, we’re achieving a much larger social goal.

Dual enrollment isn’t for everybody; that’s not my argument.  But it should be an option for everybody.  And making it an option for everybody necessarily means making it affordable to people who don’t have thousands of dollars at hand for each kid.  That’s most people.

The new administration seems to like big, bold ideas, so here’s one.  Why not make dual enrollment classes eligible for financial aid?

How much dual-enrollment students pay varies enormously from community college to community college, even within a single state. In some places, the high school district pays the tuition and acts as a gatekeeper. In others, the families pay full freight. Some have tuition reduction for high-school students (unclear who pays).

There is a lot of discussion of this issue on home-school mailing lists, since community colleges are often the most affordable way to teach advanced classes to home school students (online courses from private vendors are often ridiculously high prices).

Making dual-enrollment eligible for financial aid only helps if financial aid doesn't time out (as so much of it does).
Your question makes no sense to me, because the schools pay their tuition and buy their textbooks, just like they would for classes in the high school. The only thing they don't do (AFAIK) is provide transportation, but they might be expected to do that as well under state transportation rules. They provide transport to special enrichment programs that are not at the HS.

I am less clear about how it works for home schooled kids.

Now when I did it, in a previous millenium, my family paid the tuition -- but I also didn't get any HS credit for the class. No big deal, because I didn't need them, but the whole deal was done as a one-off. I just got excused from school. Definitely a big deal regarding senioritis!
I work at a charter high school where early college credits are a graduation requirement (5 classes is the graduation requirement, the average student takes closer to 10). Motivated students can and do earn their AA (about 10% of each graduating class does it). We pay for the courses and the textbooks. Some classes are offered on our campus, and some kids travel to the local CC for or do online.

That being said we have a few unique things about our school. First, we're a charter, so we have more control over our money. Second, we're a title 1 school and I know we have extra funding that way too. Last year my principal said that we spent about 90,000 on college classes and textbooks.

Also, since I'm used to getting a lot of pushback for working at a charter whenever I pipe up in educational arenas.....I'm one of the Special Ed teachers at our school (our % of SPED matches our local district) and even our students with disabilities meet the 5 class requirement (sometimes with advisory, remedial or vocational courses). The only exceptions are our students with the most significant disabilities (about 1-2 students per year who are on a totally different plan).
@CCPhysicist It must vary from state to state. When I was in high school in NYS in the 1980s, my family had to pay for my dual enrollment college class -- even though I got credit from my high school. The high school's position was that even though I had taken all the math classes that they offered, that I could have filled that hole in my schedule with a second foreign language or another English class or sociology or psychology or art or any of the other courses that were available at the high school.
Washington State's program (Running Start) is the same statewide. Academically qualified HS juniors and seniors can enroll at CC and most of the school district's per student state funding for those enrollments is redirected to the college. A cap was instituted several years ago - the paid arrangement only holds up to one FTE per student. A student taking a higher credit load pays tuition on the difference, as well as for all books and fees. The choice of classes is up to the individual, though some care needs to be taken to be sure college courses align with HS graduation requirements. The college can also award a "State HS diploma" directly to home schooled students who do have a high school to transfer credit back to.
Anonymous@7:20PM -
That was really interesting, although it is legally impossible in my state. HS students have to pass the college placement exam into "college level" classes before they can dual enroll. We can't teach developmental classes to HS students. Vocational classes would still be possible, as long as they weren't AS degrees. I think all of our AS degrees require college-level english and math (at the lowest college level). Certificates in Drafting or Welding would be OK, however.

Anonymous@9:20PM -
It definitely varies from state to state. Maybe even in the same state a decade earlier when I did it. I don't think our school district or state had a standard policy at that time. I was the only kid in a VERY large high school class that did this, and we produced at least one other physics PhD. Quite a few others would have done dual enrollment if it had been the norm.

Anonymous@10:42PM reminds me that I know of (through a relative) a CC where they actually teach some HS classes so they can capture 100% of the per-pupil money while the kids take other classes at the college. They don't teach college classes in the HS, they teach HS classes at the college. Sort of like a charter.
For what it's worth, in Georgia dual enrollment students (here it's called "Move On When Ready") get free tuition and books at any public college or university and participating private institutions that agree to not charge anything extra, as long as they enroll in eligible courses that count for high school credit (which is most of the USG core curriculum and lots of lower-division electives). Unlike in other states, the high school doesn't lose state funding for the dual enrolled student, so they don't have the incentive to try to keep students or limit dual enrollment.
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