Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lawmakers told dual credit programs need overhauling




State legislators are considering a range of options to promote dual credit courses as a way to increase college enrollment while reducing the cost of a degree.

 “We think dual credit is one of your major opportunities for economic development in the commonwealth,” Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Education on Monday at Kentucky State University. “What we found doesn’t necessarily need legislation. We also have some ideas on funding.”

 Holliday helped present the findings of the Dual Credit Work Group made up of members from the education department, Council on Postsecondary Education and Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

 Dual credit courses are college-level courses, in both technical and academic subjects, that allow high school students to earn both high school and college credits. Dual credit courses can vary in where they are taught, by whom they are taught and when they are taught.

 That means the courses can take place in a traditional classroom or through distance education methods such as online. The instructors can be high school teachers or college professors. The hours they are offered can also be outside the traditional school day.

Supporters say dual credit courses can result in improved college and career readiness while reducing the cost of college. For every dual credit class completed in high school, the student has one less class to take – and pay for – in college. During the 2012-’13 school year, a little more than 23 percent of Kentucky’s high school juniors and seniors enrolled in dual credit coursework.

Holliday said the working group focused on:

access to dual credit courses;

quality and rigor of the instruction;

transferability of the credits;

and how to pay for it.

To address some of those issues, Holliday said the work group is recommending schools, colleges and technical colleges collaborate to provide at least three courses in general education and three career and technical education courses.

Holliday said the group is recommending the cost be shared by a combination of state, postsecondary institutions, secondary districts, state-funded scholarships, and students and families so that no one entity is solely responsible for financing.

 Holliday said the charge for taking a dual credit course in Kentucky ranges for zero to $300 per student. He said there needs to be a uniformed funding model to prevent such disparities in costs.

“I’m hoping we will be able to articulate an agreement between the House, Senate and working group … that will best benefit the kids across the commonwealth,” said Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, who is co-chair of the education committee. “That is the bottom line.”

One bill concerning dual credit had already been filed at the time of the meeting. Bill Request 58, filed by Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, would amend current statutes to require the postsecondary education council to implement a dual credit course policy and allow high school students to receive college credit for technical courses they completed while in high school.