Dual enrollment isn’t fast track in Florida

Florida’s dual enrollment program — high schools students study tuition-free at nearby community colleges — is producing 18-year-olds with associate degrees. But very few complete a bachelor’s degree in two years, a state analysis finds. That means there are few cost savings.

Despite her associate degree from Gainesville’s Santa Fe College, Deina Bossa plans four years at the University of Florida, funded by a Lombardi and Stamps scholarship, reports the Gainesville Sun.

“I want to get the full college experience,” she said. “I feel like I missed out on a little bit in high school, so I don’t want to miss out in college.”

At the University of Florida, dual-enrollment students with associate degrees had an above-average 85 percent retention rate. But less than 6 percent graduate in two years and less than half within three years. One third take four years or more to complete a degree.

Dual enrollment is  “essentially like getting a two-year scholarship,” said Linda Lanza-Kaduce, director of Santa Fe College’s program.

The program is meant to save state money in Bright Futures scholarships and open more university spots. However, dual-enrollment students can qualify for Bright Futures, which funds four years of study, and other scholarships.

While some want to enjoy campus social life, others find they lack prerequisites needed for college majors, especially if they didn’t select a major while still in high school. Dual-enrollment students admitted as freshmen may plan double majors or retake classes they believe will be more rigorous at the university level.

Sally Blum, 17, earned her associate degree as a dual-enrollment student at Brevard Community College and is attending UF in the fall. She said she needs two more general-education classes at UF and also plans to retake a calculus class because she believes it will be harder at UF.

She wants to major in mathematics with three minors. She said a major appeal of dual enrollment was saving in college costs, although she still plans to stay three or four years at UF.

Dual-enrollment students in 2009-10 were exempted from more than $48 million in tuition. Those in public school even get free college textbooks. Taking another four years of scholarship money is “double dipping,” some say.

Worried about the rising cost of Bright Futures scholarships, state legislators are considering cutting the award by the number of college credits already earned to push dual-enrollment graduates to complete a degree in two years. Another proposal would encourage speedy graduation by letting former dual-enrollment students use some of the scholarship in graduate school.