Grow­ing num­ber of high school stu­dents earn­ing col­lege course credit

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By CON­NOR GLOWACKI Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

AN­NAPO­LIS — In an ef­fort to find greater aca­demic chal­lenges and tackle fu­ture stu­dent debt, more Mary­land high school stu­dents are tak­ing col­lege classes for credit — for some, a full se­mes­ter of cour­ses — in ad­di­tion to their reg­u­lar high school sched­ules.

In some Mary­land coun­ties, more than a quar­ter of the se­nior class is en­rolled in a col­lege course, and in some ju­ris­dic­tions, stu­dents are be­gin­ning four-year col­lege with half their cred­its al­ready com­pleted.

“You have to be mo­ti­vated. It takes dis­ci­pline and hard work,” Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion El­iz­a­beth Kirk­patrick said.

Called dual en­roll­ment, stu­dents take col­lege level classes that go to­ward both high school and col­lege credit and, de­pend­ing on the county, the com­mu­nity col­lege and school sys­tem will pay ei­ther a por­tion or all of a stu­dent’s tu­ition.

Over­all, there are ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 high school stu­dents in­volved in dual en­roll­ment through­out Mary­land. The num­ber of high school stu­dents at com­mu­nity col­leges in the state jumped by 20 per­cent in the fall 2014 se­mes­ter com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to Bernard Sadusky, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Com­mu­nity Col­leges.

Sadusky said that sev­eral fac­tors ac­count for the in­crease.

“First, the school sys­tems and com­mu­nity col­leges have been mar­ket­ing the op­por­tu­nity bet­ter to stu­dents and fam­i­lies. And then the suc­cess of the pro­grams,” San­dusky said. “Par­ents are re­al­iz­ing that stu­dent debt has be­come a na­tional dis­cus­sion point and they are re­al­iz­ing that this is the most af­ford­able thing you can get. Par­ents and stu­dents are fear­ful of be­ing in debt.”

Ap­prox­i­mately 5,453 high school se­niors — 9 per­cent of the 12th-grade stu­dents in the state — were du­ally en­rolled in a pub­lic high school and a Mary­land post­sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tion dur­ing the 2013-2014 aca­demic year, ac­cord­ing to a December 2015 report by the Mary­land Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Data Sys­tem Cen­ter. That was two per­cent­age points more than dur­ing the 20122013 aca­demic year, ac­cord­ing to the report.

In the 2013-2014 aca­demic school year, Washington County, which in­cludes Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege, had the high­est per­cent­age of du­ally en­rolled high school se­niors of ev­ery Mary­land ju­ris­dic­tion, with 28 per­cent.

There are nine pub­lic high schools in Washington County and most of the stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in dual en­roll­ment through Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor of Re­cruit­ment and Ad­mis­sions at Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege Kevin Craw­ford cred­ited two dif­fer­ent dual en­roll­ment pro­grams: Essence and Mid­dle Col­lege.

Essence allows high school stu­dents to take Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege classes for half a day at their high school with pro­fes­sors from the col­lege com­ing to teach.

Mid­dle col­lege allows stu­dents to take classes full-time at the com­mu­nity col­lege for two years, re­ceive an as­so­ciate’s de­gree by the time they grad­u­ate high school and also earn their diplo­mas.

The Mid­dle Col­lege pro­gram is cur­rently only avail­able to pub­lic school stu­dents in Washington, Prince Ge­orge’s, Howard, and Bal­ti­more coun­ties, ac­cord­ing to San­dusky.

A tra­di­tional Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege stu­dent would pay ap­prox­i­mately $9,540 in tu­ition to take all of the classes needed for an as­so­ciate’s de­gree, but du­ally en­rolled stu­dents pay less. Washington County Pub­lic Stu­dents and Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege pro­vide a 50 per­cent tu­ition dis­count for the first 12 cred­its that they take, sav­ing them up to $1,300. In ad­di­tion, some du­ally en­rolled stu­dents at Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege earned STEM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics) schol­ar­ships that range from $500 to $2,000 per se­mes­ter, which af­fects how much more money each stu­dent ends up sav­ing.

Over­all, if a du­ally en­rolled stu­dent at Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege re­ceives only the ini­tial dis­count from the school sys­tem, they would pay ap­prox­i­mately $8,200 for two years of classes to get an as­so­ciate’s de­gree, or $4,100 per aca­demic year, ac­cord­ing to Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege Mid­dle Col­lege Co­or­di­na­tor Teresa Thorn.

For the 2015-2016 aca­demic year, the na­tion­wide av­er­age tu­ition for a fouryear pri­vate non­profit univer­sity was $28,746 and the na­tion­wide av­er­age tu­ition for a four-year pub­lic univer­sity na­tion­wide was $8,070, ac­cord­ing to data from the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics.

At the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park, a full­time in-state stu­dent paid ap­prox­i­mately $4,076 in tu­ition per se­mes­ter dur­ing the 2015-2016 aca­demic year, and up to 60 cred­its earned through dual en­roll­ment at any Mary­land com­mu­nity col­lege can trans­fer to the univer­sity.

But the cred­its that are able to trans­fer over also de­pend on the type of dual en­roll­ment class taken and whether it would ful­fill a re­quire­ment for the stu­dent’s ma­jor, ac­cord­ing to the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Of­fice of Un­der­grad­u­ate Ad­mis­sions.

“They know they can save some money,” Craw­ford said.

Nate Har­rell, a 17-year-old se­nior at North Hager­stown High School in the Mid­dle Col­lege pro­gram, said he plans to at­tend Lib­erty Univer­sity in the fall to study en­gi­neer­ing and ex­plained that while cer­tain fi­nan­cial ad­van­tages played a fac­tor in participating in Dual En­roll­ment, he also felt that he could be chal­lenged more aca­dem­i­cally by tak­ing a col­lege work­load while in high school.

“I felt like a lot of my classes [in high school] were hold­ing me back be­cause they were so slow com­pared to what I could learn,” Har­rell said.

Natalie McHale, a 17-yearold se­nior also from North Hager­stown High School who is in the mid­dle col­lege and will at­tend Clem­son in the fall to study en­gi­neer­ing, said that com­pared to a high school that might have limited choices for Ad­vanced Place­ment classes, the Mid­dle Col­lege al­lowed her to take cour­ses that she wanted to take.

“You can pick the classes you want to take,” McHale said, “If you’re in­ter­ested in bi­ol­ogy, you can take those.”

Even though ad­vanced place­ment and dual en­roll­ment cour­ses can both of­fer stu­dents col­lege credit, the way to ob­tain that credit is no­tice­ably dif­fer­ent be­tween the two pro­grams.

“For the AP, you have to take the AP test and pass it. Per­son­ally, I didn’t pass mine so I couldn’t get any credit for col­lege,” McHale said, “But go­ing here, you au­to­mat­i­cally get the credit. It’s a lot more work for a col­lege class, but at least you get the credit.”

Sev­eral ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cials for Washington County Pub­lic Schools said that their schools have had a strong re­la­tion­ship with Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

Rachel Kurtz, a guid­ance coun­selor for Clear Spring High School in Clear Spring, said that the school has had a to­tal of 35 stu­dents in­volved in dual en­roll­ment cour­ses this past year.

Jeff Stouf­fer, prin­ci­pal of Washington County Tech­ni­cal School in Hager­stown, said 31 stu­dents at his school are get­ting dual credit for a col­lege al­ge­bra class.

Na­tional stud­ies have also been con­ducted to show the dif­fer­ences be­tween stu­dents in­volved in dual en­roll­ment in high school and their fu­ture chances of aca­demic suc­cess in col­lege.

In one na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of stu­dents who be­gan post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion in 2003, stu­dents who took dual en­roll­ment cour­ses ended up be­ing 10 per­cent more likely to earn a bachelor’s de­gree than their coun­ter­parts, ac­cord­ing to a 2013 study by the Univer­sity of Iowa.

In ad­di­tion, about 82 per­cent of U.S. pub­lic high schools re­ported that some stu­dents were en­rolled in a dual credit course in the 2010-2011 school year, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics.

Hazel Ware, a 16-year-old se­nior at Charles Flow­ers High School in Spring­dale, is also about to grad­u­ate with a high school diploma and an as­so­ciate’s de­gree through Dual En­roll­ment at Prince Ge­orge’s County Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

Ware took col­lege-level classes for sub­jects such as Span­ish, mu­sic and statis­tics. She was re­cently ac­cepted into the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park and the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh, and has been wait­ing to hear back from sev­eral other uni­ver­si­ties in­clud­ing Stan­ford, Duke and the Univer­sity of Chicago.

Even though she will have the op­por­tu­nity to save money by grad­u­at­ing high school and col­lege at a quicker rate, Ware also said the im­pe­tus to take col­lege credit classes early was to challenge her­self aca­dem­i­cally.

“For me, it’s more of want­ing to get a head-start,” Ware said, “I’m think­ing of at­tend­ing a pri­vate school so the cour­ses may not nec­es­sar­ily trans­fer over and that’s fine. I just wanted to gain the ex­pe­ri­ence that I need in or­der to do well in col­lege.”

In Mary­land, pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion are per­mit­ted to ac­cept stu­dents who have com­pleted at least sev­enth grade and if they have ob­tained a cer­tain score on a na­tion­ally ac­cepted col­lege en­trance exam, such as the SAT or ACT, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

State Sen. James Ros­apepe (D-Prince Ge­orge’s) spon­sored a bill this past leg­isla­tive ses­sion that would award high school and col­lege credit to mid­dle school stu­dents for tak­ing col­lege classes through dual en­roll­ment. Ros­apepe said that the state and in­di­vid­ual coun­ties wouldn’t have to pay any­thing for the bill and that coun­ties would con­tinue pay­ing the same amount of money that they are pay­ing now for dual en­roll­ment pro­grams. The bill suc­cess­fully passed unan­i­mously in both the Mary­land Se­nate and Mary­land House of Del­e­gates dur­ing the 2016 Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion.

How­ever, there is some con­cern that some stu­dents are not ready to take dual en­roll­ment cour­ses over the tra­di­tional Ad­vanced Place­ment classes avail­able in high schools.

Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park Di­rec­tor of Un­der­grad­u­ate Ad­mis­sions Shan­non Gundy said she wants to make sure stu­dents are do­ing dual en­roll­ment for the right rea­sons and that only the ap­pro­pri­ate stu­dents are tak­ing the cour­ses.

“If we are talk­ing about stu­dents that re­ally are gifted and re­ally are aca­dem­i­cally tal­ented that can move at an ad­vanced pace and are ready to take col­lege level cour­ses and pre­pare to do well in them, that’s one thing,” Gundy said. “When we have stu­dents that are re­ally just try­ing to eat up col­lege cred­its like Pac-Man, and they may not be pre­pared and may not have ex­hausted the op­por­tu­ni­ties that were avail­able for them within their high school, then that does give me some pause.”

Gundy also said that it’s dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the mo­tive for a stu­dent to take com­mu­nity col­lege cour­ses if their high school al­ready of­fers a chal­leng­ing cur­ricu­lum where they earn col­lege credit. She said that the pur­pose and ad­van­tage in go­ing to high school and us­ing the high school’s re­sources is to build a solid aca­demic foun­da­tion.

“It also allows stu­dents time to grow and ma­ture, to de­velop the skills that they’re go­ing to need in or­der to be suc­cess­ful in a col­lege class­room and there’s a dis­ad­van­tage to rush­ing that,” Gundy said.

Con­nor Nor­ton, an 18-year-old se­nior at North Hager­stown High School in the Mid­dle Col­lege pro­gram who will at­tend McDaniel Col­lege in the fall, dis­agreed and said that he thought it was a good thing get­ting sev­eral col­lege cred­its out of the way early.

“We’re sav­ing a bunch of money and that’s a big fac­tor to most peo­ple,” Nor­ton said.

In Prince Ge­orge’s County, the school sys­tem has paid an in­creas­ing amount of money for the dual en­roll­ment pro­gram in re­cent years. When dual en­roll­ment be­gan in the county, in the 2012-2013 fis­cal year, the school sys­tem spent $20,332. That num­ber in­creased to $69,092 in 20132014, and to $299,048 in 2014-2015.

Dur­ing this cur­rent fis­cal year, which ends on June 30, the county school sys­tem spent ap­prox­i­mately $487,299 on dual en­roll­ment, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Mary­land’s Of­fice of Bud­get and Man­age­ment Ser­vices.

The grow­ing cost is linked to the num­ber of stu­dents participating in the dual en­roll­ment pro­gram through Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools. In the 2014 school year, 29 stu­dents in the county par­tic­i­pated in dual en­roll­ment in the fall 2013 se­mes­ter and 35 in the spring 2014 se­mes­ter. Those to­tals jumped to 139 stu­dents in sum­mer 2014, 252 in fall 2014, 289 in spring 2015, and 274 stu­dents for the past fall 2015 se­mes­ter, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools as a re­sult of a Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest.

Ware said that with the col­lege cred­its she amassed through dual en­roll­ment in Prince Ge­orge’s County, she has saved $6,520 and ex­pects to save more in the fu­ture, by hav­ing to take fewer cour­ses to get her de­gree at a four-year univer­sity.

“Thanks to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the dual en­roll­ment pro­gram, I will grad­u­ate col­lege early and most im­por­tantly, save a tremen­dous amount of money,” Ware said.

Laura Palmer and Claire Galvin, both high school ju­niors en­rolled in Hager­stown Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s Mid­dle Col­lege, said that a stu­dent needs to have ded­i­ca­tion and a good work ethic in their classes in or­der to get the col­lege credit. Galvin added that the mid­dle col­lege allows the stu­dents to build their own aca­demic foun­da­tion by giv­ing them the ex­pe­ri­ence on how to han­dle a col­lege work­load and that even if she has to re­take a class later at a four-year school, she would al­ready have knowl­edge to build from.

“I’m not sure if I’m go­ing to go on with en­gi­neer­ing, I may change, but I feel like ev­ery­thing I’ve taken here is go­ing to help me later, even if it doesn’t count for trans­fer­ring,” Galvin said.

“It’s re­ally a cheap way to find your­self, in­stead of go­ing to a four-year and spend­ing thou­sands and thou­sands,” Nor­ton said.

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