Dual enrollment raises college aspiration

By Stephan Morse

Several years ago, a Middlebury student was struggling in high school, unsure of her future. No one in her family had ever attended college. With encouragement, she took English composition at the Community College of Vermont (CCV) during her senior year of high school. The “dual enrollment” course, for which she received both high school and college credit, gave her a taste of success, and a taste of college. She is currently enrolled at CCV and plans to pursue further education and a career in health care.

Dual enrollment is allowing hundreds of Vermont high school students the opportunity to take a college course while still in high school. If they do so, studies show they are more likely to go to college, to succeed in their studies once they are there, and to graduate.

Over 60 percent of job openings in Vermont in the next several years will require post-secondary education. Dual enrollment courses promise to help tackle our college aspiration dilemma and get more Vermonters to college. Currently, only 52 percent of our high school graduates pursue higher education. Compare that to the over 84 percent of students who took a dual enrollment course at CCV and are now enrolled in college.

One former dual enrollment student, now matriculated at Castleton State College, wrote: “This opportunity impacted my life in a lot of ways. Taking college classes in high school made me more prepared for the rigorous, college-level academic curriculum. I felt completely ready for the change after having taken college classes in high school.”

In 2013, the State of Vermont included dual enrollment vouchers in its “Flexible Pathways Initiative,” an effort to engage more Vermont students in their education and to encourage their pursuit of post-secondary education.

We must engage all young Vermonters in furthering their education. National studies show that dual enrollment students across all income levels are nearly two times more likely to graduate from high school, and more than two times likely to earn a college degree than their peers.

The State of Vermont provides two dual enrollment vouchers per high school junior or senior, at no charge to the student. Participation in 2014 doubled over the previous year, with 1,292 students from every Vermont county taking a college course while still in high school. Enrollment by economically disadvantaged students, who are English language learners, and who receive special education, is on the rise.

As someone involved in education in Vermont for many years, I find dual enrollment to be one of the most promising programs for students. I encourage students and families to inquire about participating, and I encourage the state to continue this modest but impactful investment.

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Stephan Morse is the chairman of the State Board of Education and Vermont Economic Progress Council.