As juniors and seniors plan the last few years of their high school career, they are probably thinking about prom, graduation, and applying for college. As counselors, you know many of them are also questioning how they can afford college and wondering what they can do to lower the cost of a degree.
One option available to any student is dual credit.
Dual credit provides motivated high school students the opportunity to earn college credit while also completing the requirements of their high school diploma. By partnering with a dual credit provider, the high school can provide a variety of courses that fulfill the coursework needed for high school graduation while also helping their students earn college credit at an affordable price. Credits from these courses count towards a degree at the partner college, or can generally be transferred to another regionally accredited college or university.
Your high school can partner with one of the many local colleges that provide dual credit options, often including community colleges and small liberal arts colleges. Your school can also partner with an organization that can provide several different college options for dual credit partners. TEL, for example, works with more than 10 different colleges and universities, including Greenville University in Illinois, Lane College in Tennessee, and Mid-American Christian College in Oklahoma, to provide dual credit courses. With those organizations, you can select the college that would be best for your students.
Typically, the organization has a course that the college has vetted and possibly tweaked to better align with their curriculum. For example, if a parochial high school was looking for a dual credit partner, they may prefer to have certain courses vetted by a faith-based institution. A school can have multiple dual credit partners to provide their students with the widest variety of options, but that does require more program maintenance on the high school’s part.
With the cost of a single college credit hour often coming in at several hundred dollars, dual enrollment programs provide an option for students to earn the same credit at a fraction of the cost. Different programs will vary, but dual enrollment courses can be as low as $66 per credit hour. Depending on how the course is delivered – online through a provider or in-person as part of a traditional class – the high school can sometimes cover some or all of the cost due to reductions in resources. For example, if a school uses an online program for their dual credit Introduction to Information Technology course, all of the instruction would be included in that online course. The school may need fewer teaching resources to facilitate the course instead of leading the instruction.
The most popular dual credit courses are ones that a student is likely to encounter during their first year of college, such as College Algebra. If the student takes a dual credit course in high school and completes it successfully, they will have already fulfilled that requirement for college. But there is a wide variety of courses that can be used for dual credit, including foreign language, science, and history courses. Depending on the student’s interests, it may make sense to take a few courses in high school that are not aligned with their potential major. For example, a student interested in computer science may want to take some of their introductory language and composition courses as a high school dual credit so they can jump into more focused courses once they start their college career.
Students can also earn college credit through taking AP courses, or if your school participates in the International Baccalaureate program, IB courses. AP and IB courses are vetted and administered through the College Board and the International Baccalaureate Organization respectively, as opposed to dual credit courses, which are vetted by a specific college. With AP and IB courses, you will submit the results of those specific tests to your colleges during the application process so they can be counted toward your credit hour total, and may satisfy certain requirements. With dual credit, students will get credit at a specific institution, which will already be on their transcript if they enroll in that college, or the student can get the transcript showing their dual credit that they can use when applying to other colleges.
Students have several options for earning affordable college credit while still in high school, and counselors can help them understand all the options available. Depending on the goals of the student and the relationships their high school has with nearby colleges, dual credit can help students get a head start on their college careers.