Dual-Enrollment Students Get a Head Start on College
> 1/26/2007 2:53:50 PM

The dual enrollment option offers students the chance to earn college credit while still in high school. Students involved in the program, who are usually juniors or seniors in high school, are generally allowed to take courses either online or at the campus of the participating university. Completing these classes will provide both high school and college credit. The ultimate goal of the program is to familiarize motivated high schoolers with the college atmosphere and college-level workloads in preparation for freshman year. The dual enrollment program varies from state to state and often from school to school, and it involves a particular relationship between the schools in question.

The dual enrollment concept offers quite a few potentially significant benefits for the high school student, mainly allowing them to get a "feel" for the college experience and take classes not available to them at their local high schools. Such opportunities could lead students to make more informed choices about courseloads and majors in the future while knocking off some of the credits required for both high school and college graduation. But the program is not perfect. Many colleges, especially private and more selective institutions, do not participate at all, and a large portion of those that do are either state or community colleges or vocational schools. For those with high-tier aspirations, advanced placement is a much more sensible option. Most universities accept some form of AP work, often granting college credit for junior and senior-year APs as long as the student in question receives a passing grade of 3 or 4 on his or her assessment.

But several states have recently expanded their dual enrollment programs, and for a relatively small number of students they could result in earlier graduation and smoother entry into their professional field of choice. Some of these programs require additional fees, but they are, for the most part, negligable, and states  usually contribute public funds to the cause. Tennessee, for example, established a special dual enrollment grant, paid for by the state lottery, which sets aside money for students involved in that state's program. For students who find their college choices limited by financial concerns or wish to attend a state or vocational school, the dual enrollment program could provide an extra push. As an example, some students looking to major in the sciences may not have the option of taking relevant classes at their high schools, and the dual enrollment option could grant them the opportunity to take relevant courses at a participating college. But high school students focused on their academic futures already have a very full plate before them, and advanced placement courses will still be their preferred option.

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