More students earning college credits in high school

More students earning college credits in high school

(Wash.) Almost two-thirds of Washington high school students earned college credit in 2016 by completing dual enrollment coursework, according to data released last week by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Participation in dual enrollment courses–whether on college campuses or through Advanced Placement classes taught at the high school–has been linked to increased graduation rates and college enrollment, better grades in college, and a higher likelihood of earning a college degree or industry certificate.

“Dual credit programs are a powerful tool in getting students prepared for education and training beyond high school,” Chris Reykdal, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in a statement. “Two-thirds of all jobs require at least some post-high school education or training. Helping our students prepare for this reality is an economic imperative.”

Researchers from Georgetown University noted that far more students would have to earn a college degree or professional certificate than past generations in order to reach the same financial thresholds. In 1970, only 26 percent of the middle class earned an Associate’s degree or higher; now 61 percent of people need some sort of degree to be middle class, according to a study published by the University in 2015.

Additionally, by 2018, 63 percent of all jobs will require at least some post-high school education or training, the report found. Employers will need 22 million new workers with postsecondary degrees, and 4.7 million workers with post-secondary certificates.

In light of numerous studies with similar conclusions, states have begun pushing even harder to better prepare students for college. Some, including California and Delaware, have increased state funding in order to expand the number of juniors and seniors in high school that enroll in local community colleges for free or by paying reduced fees.

Since 2013, the Washington Legislature has taken steps to boost participation in AP courses which can lead to college credits by encouraging local school boards to adopt policies that automatically enroll students who meets the proficiency standard on the high school statewide student assessment in the next most rigorous level of advanced courses offered by the high school. Low-income students can take the end-of-year AP tests at a reduced cost.

The state also provides supplemental funding for high school students who enroll in college-level courses. At community or technical colleges students pay mandatory fees that extend beyond tuition, which is covered by funding provided to the student’s high school by the state. Colleges are required to make fee waivers available to low-income students.

In Washington, almost 18,000 more students completed at least one dual enrollment course in the 2015-16 school year compared to 2013-14. But education officials noted that, despite the increase overall, large gaps remain between racial subgroups.

While almost 190,000 students earned dual enrollment credits, 71 percent of the state’s Asian high school juniors and seniors completed one of Washington’s dual credit options, while only 41 percent of the state’s Native American/Alaskan Native population in the same age group did the same.

Similarly large gaps were found between students in foster care and their peers, between English learners and native English speakers, and between students with disabilities and students not enrolled in special education.

Reykdal said education leaders should use the data to inform decisions targeting these subgroups and increasing their participation in dual enrollment coursework.

Past research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that disadvantaged students often benefit the most from such coursework, because it often helps low-income families avoid at least a portion of skyrocketing tuition costs. Such programs also decreases the need for remediation at the postsecondary level, thereby decreasing the overall cost of earning a degree, and increases the pool of students historically underserved by reducing high school dropout rates and increasing student aspirations by helping low-achieving students meet high academic standards.

“With this data, we are able to both celebrate our progress in increasing access to dual credit opportunities while also identifying the persistent but unacceptable gaps in access,” Reykdal said. “[Collecting subgroup data] is the only way we can effectively change policies, practices and results for all students.”