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Friday, November 01, 2019

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, NOVEMBER 1, 2019

UNRESOLVED ISSUES IN DUAL ENROLLMENT

Dual Enrollment for high school students has existed under different names such as "Move On When Ready" and "Accel" for a number of years. High school students have always been able to enroll in colleges while still in high school but there were always impediments to full participation. One of the barriers was that school districts lost funding for the period of time that a high school student was taking a college class. Another impediment was that students' credit hours would count against their HOPE Scholarship eligibility later on. An ad hoc committee finally worked out the details of what became known as Dual Enrollment and for many reasons, the program has grown exponentially.

HOW DUAL ENROLLMENT WORKS

Dual enrollment at a college, public or private, or technical college is free to the student. When a high school student enrolls in a college course, the state continues to pay the school system under the QBE Formula for the student's regular attendance. If a student takes classes at a TCSG or USG institution, their credit hours count towards the funding formulas for each higher education system. Additionally, the Student Finance Commission pays the college tuition for the student to attend class. The student thus is earning postsecondary college credit or technical college credit towards a certificate at no cost to them.

COSTS ROSE RAPIDLY

At the start of the current program, the Technical College System and the Board of Regents System shared about an equal amount of the cost and private institutions had a much smaller portion. In these few short years, private institutions have taken a larger portion of the total cost and along with TCSG have accounted for the bulk of the growth. From FY 2016 to FY 2019 Dual Enrollment costs increased 67.8% at USG institutions, 107.9% at TCSG institutions, and 224.4% at private institutions.

In 2016, Dual Enrollment costs totaled about $45 million in state dollars. In FY 2020 the state appropriation is underfunded at almost $100 million dollars. The original projection for Dual Enrollment called for nearly $126 million in total funding, but the budget was reduced to reflect changes to program which would have happened if HB 444 had been passed this past session.

BOOK PAYMENTS ENDED

Costs have leveled out between FY 2019 and FY 2020 due to the decision by the Georgia Student Finance Commission to cease paying for books and fees beginning this coming fall. This decision was made by the commission to maintain the cost of the Dual Enrollment program within the available funding. Unfortunately, the levelling out is temporary because the overall demand for the program is unchanged. For FY 2021, GSFC is projecting it will cost $123 million.

ISSUES WITH CURRENT DUAL ENROLLMENT SYSTEM

A State Auditor's report in 2018 outlined some of the reasons for the rapidly advancing cost of Dual Enrollment and some of the areas where increasing costs have been rampant. The report pointed out there are no restraints on the number or content of courses students can take under Dual Enrollment. The report also outlined that there is no statewide standard grade requirement and grade levels as low as a "C" can qualify for some colleges.

There is no standard amount that the Student Finance Commission pays all colleges, public and private. Instead, for USG and TCSG institutions, Student Finance pays the standard tuition per-credit-hour rate which varies from $95.00 to $341.93 although, most Dual Enrollment classes taken at USG institutions are at cheaper colleges. All TCSG institutions have a $100 per-credit-hour tuition rate. Private institutions are paid at a fixed rate of $250 for colleges using a semester system and $187 for colleges using a quarter system.

STANDARDS FOR INSTRUCTORS?

Dual Enrollment classes can be taught on a college campus, online, or on a high school campus. If they are taught on a high school campus the instructor can be a normal college professor who travels to the high school, or the instructor could be a high school teacher who is made an adjunct faculty member at a college. No matter where the class is delivered or who teaches it, the cost is the same. Additionally, there are no statewide standard requirements for Dual Enrollment instructors except that they meet the general requirements to be an adjunct faculty member that each college sets.

IDEAS ON REDUCING COSTS, SETTING STANDARDS

Cutting down on what Dual Enrollment funds will lead to short term savings. However, until the growth in demand for the program is addressed, the high cost will return eventually.

Setting a standard award payment across all sectors of Dual Enrollment and allowing colleges to make the choice to continue accepting Dual Enrollment students could help to limit the program's growth. Requiring a minimum standard GPA for all high school students would limit program costs and it could incentivize high school students to get better grades so they can participate in Dual Enrollment. Additionally, eliminating payments for summer classes to align Dual Enrollment with the high school calendar would result in savings.

Limiting a student to 30 credit hours, or ten classes, and then counting credit hours taken above that limit towards their HOPE Scholarship eligible hours would reduce costs and incentivize high school students to be thoughtful in the college classes they take.

DUAL ENROLLMENT- A SUCCESS STORY

Ultimately, it will be up to the General Assembly in the upcoming session to determine what changes will be made to Dual Enrollment to preserve the benefit for future students while addressing the very high cost of the program.

Dual Enrollment at its core is a wonderful advantage for high school students to get ahead in college attendance, get a feel for college while still in high school or attain a trade or skill before graduation that may assist in a job search.

We shouldn't forget that Dual Enrollment is succeeding. The audit report referred to earlier noted that 83% of high school graduates in 2015, who participated in dual enrollment, were enrolled in a postsecondary institution within one year of graduating. Nearly half had earned a credential or degree within six years.

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