How To Give All Students Access to College-Level Learning

by | Mar 8, 2022 | Learning Design

What is more important in deciding if a student is college-ready: their prior test scores or their motivation?

According to this article in the Journal of Developmental Education, students who were considered “not college-ready” were enrolled in college-level courses and given support. About two-thirds of the students were successful in their courses.

When students are told they aren’t college-ready and aren’t allowed to enroll in college-level courses, that can keep them from taking college courses in the future.

Being successful in dual credit and similar college-level courses can help students build confidence that they can be successful in other post-high school learning, including college or trade school. So why create unnecessary barriers to students, such as GPA or year in school, to enroll in dual credit courses?

Any motivated student deserves to have access to affordable college-level learning, regardless of their GPA. Here are ways that your school can make college credit accessible to more students.

Lower The Barriers To Entry

The idea of college-level courses can be intimidating on its own. But with the support of teachers and a familiar environment, high school is a great time for students to try it. The first step to making college credit more available is to lower the barriers to entry. Create a dual credit program that removes qualifications such as GPA minimums and focuses on student motivation.

Especially these past two years, test scores tell a limited story about a student’s potential. The student may have done poorly in a class because they were sick during a major exam. Maybe they had a year where they took on too much – family responsibilities, work, sports – and their grades suffered before they were able to pull back.

Instead of GPA minimums or test scores, encourage students to complete a survey or sit for an interview in order to determine how motivated a student is to earn college credit. This will also give you an opportunity to explain the level of work expected and the support structures available to the student.

Another barrier for students is prior courses. Some dual credit courses will require a certain level of content knowledge. But by offering a catalog, including courses such as Introduction to Communication or American Government that don’t have prerequisites, students can get started with dual credit without that hurdle. This also makes them accessible to younger students, such as sophomores, who might be interested in earning an associate degree in high school.

Make The Dual Credit Affordable

To make college-level learning available to the highest number of students, the entire program needs to be affordable, including the course materials. Because of state subsidies, many schools are able to provide lower cost or even free dual-credit options to their students. But make sure you know the true cost of the program.

Even with a state subsidy, free dual credit programs aren’t always free. There are often expensive course materials or fees that could keep a student from enrolling or finishing the course. Look for an all-inclusive program where the materials are bundled into the course. Avoid programs with application or proctoring fees.

Create Layers of Support

Dual credit courses are often a student’s first exposure to college-level learning. These types of courses often ask students to think in new ways and take ownership of their learning, which can be hard for high school students. Find ways to support students with both content knowledge as well as time management and study skills.

One level of support is at the school. Have a facilitator for the courses, even if they are delivered completely online, so students have someone at their school who can help them. With TEL courses, the instruction is included in the course so the facilitators can focus on guiding students. One of our partners uses TEL courses for their hybrid program and the facilitator is an athletics coach who cares about kids and knows how to motivate them.

Facilitators and counselors should also use the program’s reporting features to check on student progress. Make sure you have access to the student’s grades and participation, and pop into the student’s inbox or stop them in the hall to congratulate them on finishing a tough assignment or doing well on an exam.

Another layer of support is within the program itself. Look for a dual credit program that includes tutoring or success coaches along with active faculty. Near-peer success coaches, like the ones we have at TEL, have been shown to increase student success, especially for those who don’t have the traditional at-home support system.

Build Confidence for College-Level Learning in High School

As a high school counselor or administrator, your goal is to help students be successful in high school and beyond. Taking college-level courses in high school helps students push themselves in a supported and safe environment. Give all your motivated students the opportunity to see what they can do when given the chance.

Are you ready to lower the barriers to dual credit for your students? Contact us today to learn more about dual credit with TEL Education.

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