• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

What Nobody Told Me About Dual Enrollment

Lessons to share.

October 18, 2018
 
 

We have a number of dual enrollment and early college high school arrangements with local high schools, both public and private. They allow students to take college classes for transcripted college credit while still in high school. In the ECHS programs, students who earn enough credits can complete an associate degree at the same time as a high school diploma.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned some in-the-trenches lessons about working with dual enrollment and early college programs. 

In the spirit of public service, a few lessons learned along the way:

Not every student will pass every class. You’d think that would be obvious, but ECHS programs are often built on relatively prescriptive “crosswalks” or curricular paths that assume that everybody will pass everything on the first try. Be prepared for what happens when a few students don’t, but don’t want to leave the program.

Tutoring matters.  A lot. This is easy to overlook in the beginning, but don’t.  High school schedules often lend themselves well to tutoring, given more days per week with which to work. 

Book purchasing cycles are different. In college, each course can have its own purchasing cycle, since students buy the books (or don’t).  Part of the appeal of OER is ensuring that you don’t have students in the class who never bought the book.  In high schools, though, the schools often buy the books for the students, but they expect a given textbook to last seven years or more.  Outside of a few literary classics, that’s really not what we do. This one is tricky, because you may be a few years in before it arises as an issue.  If you care about a consistent academic experience, this is a major issue. I’m a fan of OER for this reason, too; if the school doesn’t have to pay for the book, it won’t cry foul when the book is updated.  

The field is surprisingly crowded and competitive. We have several four-year colleges, including at least one from out of state, competing with us in the high schools.  One way they compete is by waiving placement tests as prerequisites for certain courses. That makes it more difficult for us to hold the line, academically.  I’ll admit a certain pride in being the college that actually upholds standards -- take that, stereotype! -- but the competitive pressure to play ball is real. 

Students, parents, and principals play hardball. I’ll just leave that there.

Transportation is a whole different ballgame with 16 year olds.

When they reach the stage at which they come to the college campus for classes, if you have the ability, it’s preferable to scatter dual-enrollment students among sections than to concentrate them in a few. 

You might be surprised at how well most of the students do, especially once they arrive at the college campus.  Sometimes the change of scene does a world of good. That can be especially true for students who are bullied or otherwise ostracized in the hothouse atmosphere of high school.

The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but it’s a start. Nobody told me any of this.

Wise and worldly readers, what would you add?

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