State Board could tighten Idaho’s dual credit program

The State Board of Education could take another look at tightening up Idaho’s growing dual-credit program.

In August, the board will consider limiting the taxpayer-funded program to courses that will position high school students for college.

The idea is still in its infancy. The State Board hasn’t written a bill, and board members and staff haven’t discussed the idea with legislators, spokesman Blake Youde said Wednesday. And at its August meeting, the board might decide to pursue the idea, or scrap it entirely.

But the State Board’s discussion comes as Idaho is sinking more money into its “advanced opportunities” program — bankrolling a host of programs designed to improve Idaho’s lackluster college graduation rates. The advanced opportunities program cost Idaho $12.1 million in 2016-17, more than twice as much as the $6 million the 2016 Legislature earmarked for the program.

The advanced opportunities program provides each high school student with a $4,125 line of credit, and they can use these state dollars to enroll in college-level dual-credit classes.

But what classes should students take? The State Board is continuing to wrestle with that question.

In June, the State Board considered 18 possible legislative proposals for 2018. The dual credit wording provides a rough sense of what a bill might look like. It could limit state-funded dual-credit coursework “to either general education courses or those courses that are part of a student’s academic plan that lead to a certificate or degree.”

The idea is to make sure dual-credit coursework is “more targeted,” and to make sure high schools provide adequate counseling to students participating in the dual credit program.

The State Board looked at the dual credit issue last year, amidst concerns that too many students were taking elective courses that wouldn’t help them pursue a college degree. The State Department of Education disagreed with this assertion — and ultimately, the State Board tabled its dual-credit language.

More reading: Idaho’s Advanced Placement enrollment grows, but challenges linger.