More high school students in Detroit's school district will graduate with college credit, thanks to an expansion of a program with the Wayne County Community College District. This partnership allows students to take college courses beginning their freshman year of high school, Chalkbeat reports.
The expanded partnership would allow students to earn six to eight college credits per school year at no cost to them. The classes, taught by the community college, match the Detroit district's career pathway options, which include business and entrepreneurship, health care, technology and others, Chalkbeat notes.
The dual-enrollment program could not only give students an early start on getting college credits — making the cost of a post-graduate degree less expensive — it also gives students the opportunity to earn industry licenses or certifications as high schoolers.
The main benefit of dual-enrollment programs is that they greatly reduce the cost of obtaining a four-year degree, as some of a student's required college credits will have already been fulfilled in high school at little or no cost. Educators hoped that by reducing the price of a four-year degree, more minority and poor students would be encouraged to enroll.
The benefits of these programs have likely played a factor in their popularity. In Texas, dual-credit enrollment increased from 80,000 students in 2008 to 151,000 students in the 2017-18 school year, according to an editorial in the Dallas Morning News. And while these programs don’t always result in later college enrollment or success, they have proven to increase college-going behavior through inspiring and supporting students who would otherwise be overwhelmed by the hefty price tag or difficult transition.
However, these programs don't always reach students from underserved communities, and several states are taking steps to lower the cost hurdle for education by offering tuition-free college programs. Seventeen states now offer some type of tuition-free program, including Maryland, which awards $5,000 in scholarships to in-state families making less than $150,000 a year as of September 2018.
The idea of free community college classes gained notable publicity in 2015, when President Obama made his pitch for the practice in his State of the Union address and singled out Tennessee and Chicago as examples of areas with similar programs that were already in place at the time. New York is the only state to offer last-dollar assistance to students at the four-year level.
Combined with other efforts, including college prep and other pre-college experiences, administrators and school leaders can help high schoolers make a successful transition to a post-secondary degree setting. And, even if a student isn't planning on attending college after high school, partnerships with local community colleges and other career pathway initiatives will help give them the tools they need to start their careers in the workforce.