- Improved and consistent dual-enrollment opportunities, Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings in high school or by allowing these students to skipping the senior year altogether are among the easier pathways to college that should be available for the nearly one in four juniors who has already met all four ACT college benchmarks, according to a new report from Education Reform Now and the Alliance for Excellent Education, The 74 reports.
- Almost a third of these qualifying students are eligible for Pell grants and almost another third are eligible for subsidized loans, so schools should take those needs into account either by putting students on a track that allows them to earn a year of college credit for free while in high school or by offering a substantial scholarship to a state school for the first year of college, if students choose to skip their senior year, the study suggests.
- States also need to consider equity issues as they develop these pathways as minority students are often underrepresented in AP classes. Improving options, however, could pave the way for more college-ready students to graduate and attend college and would likely benefit other students by expanding access to more rigorous offerings at schools.
With the rising cost of college, gaining as many credits as possible in high school is a smart way to cut down on higher education expenses and debt. AP classes offer one way to accomplish this, though access to these courses are often limited in some areas. Dual-enrollment courses offer another avenue to college credit and often do not require an additional instructor at the K-12 level because the courses can be taken at the local community college or online. However, states treat these programs inconsistently. Early college high schools, another model, typically allow students to earn an associate degree for free while in high school.
As K-12 public schools increase their collaboration with community colleges, these options tend to grow. North Carolina offers a College and Career Promise program that allows qualified students to take dual-enrollment courses for free during their junior and senior years, and in some cases, their sophomore year. Because students are still enrolled in school, districts benefit because they still receive state funding for those students, and community colleges benefit because they are receiving funding for more students at a time when community college enrollment is generally decreasing. In addition, because the average cost of a college credit at a community college is only $135, school districts can come out ahead under these plans. States and students can also come out ahead under models that promote earning of early college credit as well, former Indiana state Senator Teresa Lubbers said in a recent column.
Some educators and policymakers promote the idea of a K-16 education model rather than a K-12 one as it will more easily address these transitions. It makes sense for the two entities to be more closely linked, and some states, such as Idaho and Pennsylvania, have combined K-12 and higher education policymakers in their state boards of education. Such a model makes creating college pathways easier. As states endeavor to find consistent ways to address credits earned through dual enrollment and AP classes, and funding methods are found to make these pathways more accessible to all students who qualify, the road to college will become easier to travel.