Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Planning for High School Part 4: Dual Enrollment

When you have a high school student who plans to go on to college, dual enrollment can be a great opportunity for him to get a head start on fulfilling college requirements.  Dual enrollment, as easily as I can explain it, is when a high school student earning credit toward graduation, takes a class through a community college or 4-year college that will count toward both high school and college credit.  These classes can be taken either on campus or through distance learning.

I wish I could tell you exactly how to go about earning dual enrollment for your child and how, precisely, it works.  Truth is, not only do the states differ in dual enrollment regulation, but so does each institution.  You'll have to do your homework on this subject.  But, here are some articles that might help.

HSLDA article Dual Enrollment: A Two- for- One Deal!

A to Z's Homeschool article:  Benefits of Dual Enrollment

CollegePlus article:  The Official Homeschooler's Guide to Dual Credit - a nice comparison of dual credit through the AP exam, CLEP, DSST, and community college.

The Home Scholar article:  Facing the Community College Fad - an article about some of the concerns we might have with dual enrollment. (Hint: the author is not a fan.)

The past few years I have met and discussed dual enrollment with some fellow homeshool parents.  The ones who chose that route were happy with their choice, but had some advice to pass on.  Here's some of the topics to think on that were passed on to me should we ever consider this option.
  • Consider credits.  Again, you'll have to do your homework.  Will the dual enrollment credits your student earns transfer on to the 4-year college or university of their choice?  Many are those who transfer to universities from a junior or community college only to find that they have to repeat classes because their credits didn't transfer.  Are there rules as to how many dual enrollment credits a student can take?  Its best to know the institution's policies regarding credits before diving in.
  • Testing.  Be aware that community colleges can be cautious about letting younger students in their classes - understandably so.  Expect that they will request either an SAT or ACT score and some sort of placement exam such as the ACCUPLACER or COMPASS.
  • Consider environment.  Community college is very much an adult environment.  Keep that in mind.  One family I talked to explained that they liked to use the buddy system with their dual enrollment teens.  They coupled with other families they knew in the homeschool community and arranged so that their kids always had another homeshool buddy or three in whatever class they took.  For this particular family, they were more concerned about their daughters than their sons, but all the kids appreciated having a familiar face in their college classrooms.  It served as both an accountability and protection factor.
  • Consider cost.  Traditionally, dual enrollment will save you money on college costs.  In some places its even free.  However, I did read one article where the author warned against having students take too many dual enrollment courses as it could potentially put them out of contention for freshman level college scholarships.  Hmmmm....tricky.
  • Consider maturity and readiness.  As said before, a community college is very much an adult environment.   Carefully consider whether this is a setting and level of work he is prepared for.  Dual enrollment classes are college classes where instructors expect maturity and responsibility  If your student isn't really ready for the challenge, poor grades may occur which will stay on his college transcript and be seen wherever else he may want to attend in the future. 
Well...I don't really feel like I helped anyone at all on this topic.  There is just so much information on this topic that rides on the particular policies and regulations of the states and institutions, that I can't make many general comments.  But, I wanted to mention it since it does seem to be the way many homeschooling students are getting a head start on college.  Dual enrollment is certainly an option worth exploring, but its important to be well informed on this topic before participating.

-A

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