American Press • Lake Charles, Louisiana • January 28, 2020
Dual enrollment is a valuable tool that gives high school students the chance to earn college credits ahead of getting their diploma.
Louisiana should ensure that eligible juniors and seniors can take advantage of these courses. However, statistics show that hasn’t been the case.
Fewer than 20,000 of the roughly 90,000 juniors and seniors statewide took classes for high school and college credit in the 2017-2018 school year, The Advocate reported.
Another issue at hand is the imbalance between white and black students taking dual enrollment courses. Of the 20,000 students who took dual enrollment during that same school year, 65 percent were white, while 27 percent were black.
The cost of these courses — which can be up to $170 per hour of credit — is another issue state education officials are trying to address.
A draft report issued earlier this month by the Louisiana Dual Enrollment Framework Task Force stated that schools should offer at least four free dual enrollment courses.
Dual enrollment will no doubt be a major topic when state lawmakers begin the spring session March 9. Gov. John Bel Edwards — who was unsuccessful in securing two free college courses during last year’s session — likely faces another uphill battle.
The obvious hurdle revolves around how to pay for these additional courses. Louisiana currently spends roughly $17 million on dual enrollment.
There’s also the issue of training teachers to provide these classes.
Student eligibility standards for dual enrollment may change. Right now, a student needs a 2.5 grade-point average and a 19 ACT score, along with scores of 19 in math and 18 in English, to take classes for college credit.
The draft report mentioned a few recommendations to pay for the extra classes. One said Louisiana should review how other states, like Georgia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, have paid for increased access for historically disadvantaged students. Others mentioned the potential to get seed money from this year’s Legislature, and maximizing state and federal funds.
There are concerns about expanding the program. Tommy Byler, a commission member who represents the Louisiana Association of Principals, told The Advocate of principals mentioning the trouble their schools already have offering two classes for college credit.
Students who take dual enrollment are more likely to go to college and earn a degree, according to the task force’s draft report. If state lawmakers can see the positive impacts of dual enrollment, they may be more inclined to set aside extra dollars to expand it.
Louisiana should do what it can to offer these courses to eligible high school students. How and if the state will pay for expansion remains up in the air.
We’ll have to wait and see which recommendations the task force makes during a tentatively scheduled meeting Feb. 20.