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No-cost dual enrollment changes the game. Eligible high school students can no longer afford not to take the courses.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
New partnerships between Virginia’s community colleges and high schools aim to make it easier for juniors and seniors to earn college credits and job credentials. Virginia Western Community College has taken the mandate by the General Assembly one step further in removing the last substantial barrier: cost.
The community college’s president, Robert Sandel, has found a way to allow the high schoolers to earn credits without paying tuition, the one barrier that has stopped academically prepared high school students from preparing for life after graduation.
“Business and industry are on me all the time to raise the level of education,” Sandel said. Employers need skilled, trained workers and often look to the community college to train the workforce. Turning the dual enrollment program into one that is of no cost to students will help meet that need. Still, too many students and their parents don’t understand dual enrollment enough to grasp the benefits.
Dual enrollment differs from traditional Advance Placement courses. With AP, students capable of more academically challenging work take a test at the end of the course. If they pass, and depending on the college they eventually attend, college credits may be awarded.
With dual enrollment, the students take actual college classes — at their high school, on the college campus or online — that are taught by educators with the credentials to teach at the community college. Credits are transferable to any college that accepts the community college’s credits. Advanced students can accumulate enough credits to earn an associate’s degree with their high school diploma. And at no cost, even just one or two classes can help cut down the tuition bills students will face after high school.
But dual enrollment isn’t just for the college bound. It also offers students learning a trade the ability to gain industry certification that makes them employable at graduation. In Roanoke, for example, 19 dual enrollment courses are available at ROTEC.
Last year, area high school students accounted for 2,211 course enrollments, a number expected to rise significantly this fall now that qualified students will no long be shut out for financial reasons. Virginia Western has changed the game, making it so eligible high school students can no longer afford not to participate.
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