Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin said he wants every high school student in the state to earn an associate degree or other higher education credential upon graduating so that they are “immediately prepared to go right into life,” the Cardinal News reported. That might mean making such a degree a high school graduation requirement, Youngkin said.
In his remarks, given at an event co-hosted by the News on the economic development of southwest Virginia, Youngkin said he plans to ask for a budget amendment in December to expand the state’s existing Early College Scholars program to encourage high schoolers to dually enroll in community college or vocational programs.
“What we want to do is work with industry and work with our higher education institutions and professional training institutions to make sure that in high school, you have a chance to explore your dreams, to try new things, and if you just decide to go to college, you’ll be ready,” Youngkin said. “And if you choose to go right into the workforce, you’ll have a skill that allows you to stack and build your career.”
While acknowledging the push would be a “big lift” that would require hiring more staff at community colleges across the state, Youngkin said he believes the state has “the capabilities” to accomplish it.
“There’s no reason why it couldn’t be incorporated into our graduation requirements,” he said.
Many states have programs to encourage dual enrollment or partnerships between community colleges and regional high schools, but none have made earning an associate degree or professional credential a graduation requirement for high school students.
Nationally, dual enrollment by high schoolers makes up an increasingly large slice of the community college enrollment pie; it jumped from 7 percent of community college enrollment in 2007 to 16 percent in 2019, according to data from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College of Columbia University.
And as community college enrollment plummeted among adult learners during the pandemic, high school–age students became an important target demographic. Dual-enrollment rates increased by 11 percent at community colleges this fall, according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which helped drive a slight boost in overall enrollment for the first time since the pandemic began.