Thousands of Iowa students are earning community college credits while still in high school, but education officials question whether dual-enrollment students are prepared for college, reports the Des Moines Register.
More than 38,200 high school students took classes last year for credit through community colleges, 50 percent more than the figure five years earlier, according to a new Iowa Department of Education study. Those students accounted for more than 25 percent of the enrollment at the state’s community colleges.
State education officials, though, haven’t tracked passing and failing rates of the classes and they don’t know whether course work is as rigorous as that offered at the college level, officials said.
Iowa State University is studying the college performance of what Iowa calls concurrent enrollment students. Students entering with community college credits — transfers and high school graduates — often struggle with college coursework, said Wolfgang Kliemann, chair of Iowa State’s math department.
“These students would fall into the category of ‘there may be problems there,’ ” Kliemann said. “My wish is that high schools as well as community colleges really educate students very carefully and thoroughly. Students do not have enough of the foundations. But they go on and take additional courses for which they are not prepared and, therefore, these courses are not very useful. They have to go back and build their foundation.”
Concurrent enrollment students are supposed to be taking the same classes as community college students in order to earn college credits at no extra cost.
Four-year colleges may not accept credits earned in high school, warns Sue Shallenberger, the Wall Street Journal’s work and family columnist.
. . . 47 states have policies allowing high-school students to take dual-credit courses, up from 23 states a decade ago, says Michael Webb, an associate vice president at Jobs for the Future, a Boston nonprofit that develops programs to help low-income youth and adults prepare for jobs. About 95% of community colleges have partnerships with high schools to offer such credit, Mr. Webb says. Many four-year colleges and universities do as well. More than 70% of high schools allow students to take college courses, and “there is a huge demand” to do so as families seek to cut college costs, he says. The courses are often at least partly financed by school districts or state governments.
Many students make early progress toward earning a college degree this way. However, others discover after completing dual-enrollment courses that the four-year school of their choice won’t accept the credits. A 2002 study showed credit from fewer than half of dual-enrollment courses was accepted by colleges in which the students later enrolled, Mr. Webb says.
However, the percentage has probably risen significantly since then, he says, because more students are earning general-education credits in core courses that are designed to transfer readily.
It’s also become more difficult for students to get college credit for doing well on Advanced Placement exams.