In recent weeks, there’s been renewed attention to dual enrollment, the courses offered through Virginia’s Community Colleges to give high school juniors and seniors a head-start on earning college credits.
A total of 45,759 students enrolled in dual enrollment courses with our colleges statewide in AY 2021-22. On average, dual enrollment students took 9 credit hours (the equivalent of 3 college courses) over the course of the year. More than 2,700 dual enrolled students completed a certificate or degree before they graduated from high school.
In the run-up to the next General Assembly session, educators will be paying close attention to budget plans offered by Governor Glenn Youngkin, who has said on several occasions that he wants all Virginia high school students to graduate with college-level associate degrees or certificates that will prepare them for the workforce. Youngkin is expected to reveal his plans when he meets with members of General Assembly money committees Dec. 15.
Meanwhile, the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) – which conducts program evaluation, policy analysis and oversight of state agencies — has conducted its own study into “The costs of Virginia’s Dual Enrollment System.”
Among the study’s observations and recommendations:
- State law requires school divisions to offer dual enrollment. Most dual enrollment courses are taught at high schools by high school teachers. Dual enroll participation increased 54 percent between the 2012–13 academic year and 2021–22. Dual enrollment students as a proportion of total community college enrollment has grown from 13 percent in 2012 to 28 percent in 2021.
- Of the school divisions for which information was available, 63 percent of students do not pay dual enrollment tuition and fees. Based on the information available for these divisions, an estimated majority of students statewide do not pay dual enrollment tuition and fees. School divisions that are subject to charges from community colleges absorb these charges rather than pass them on to students.
- Charging students for dual enrollment is not necessary because all colleges and the vast majority of school divisions receive sufficient state and local funding to cover dual enrollment program costs. This unnecessary tuition imposes costs on a substantial number of students and leads to inconsistencies in the amount students pay for dual enrollment across the state. Charging dual enrollment tuition and fees also makes dual enrollment less accessible to economically disadvantaged students.
In response to the JLARC report, the VCCS issued the following statement:
- We are grateful that JLARC reviewed the important and complex topic of dual enrollment and we appreciate the way commission staff conducted this research.
- We share great interest with members of the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office in expanding access to high quality programs like dual enrollment that afford high school students with life-changing pathways to both advanced credentials and to meaningful careers.
- Dual enrollment offers high school students the opportunity to get a head start on their higher education. As our Interim Chancellor, Dr. Sharon Morrissey noted in her December 6 letter to JLARC, “The benefits of dual enrollment are numerous and include those that accrue both to students and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Students and their families benefit from the opportunity to reduce the average time to degree completion and future college expenses. Upon completion of high school, students can enter college, with credits applicable to their degree paths. According to SCHEV data, between 56% and 60% of students with dual enrollment credits will complete a bachelor’s degree within 4 years, compared to less than 50% of students without dual enrollment credits.”
- We share in Virginia’s interest to make college learning experiences in high school affordable and accessible and we look forward to working with the General Assembly and Governor to continue scaling up dual enrollment in Virginia and that the right incentives are in place to allow school divisions and community colleges to participate in meaningful partnerships that provide students and their families with the support and high quality education needed for students to succeed after high school in work and in college.