Over the last several years, I have witnessed an amazing collaborative effort between Idaho high schools and colleges to help students continue on into higher education through dual credit programs.
According to the Idaho State Board of Education in a report published earlier this year, dual credit has increased by nearly 150 percent in the number of students taking dual credit classes throughout the state. Last year (2014-15), College of Western Idaho (CWI) had more than 4,000 high school students earning college credit while preparing to graduate from high school and take the next step to college under the Dual Credit program. This is an increase of 40 percent over the previous year and we anticipate this number to continue to grow as high school teachers encourage their students to make the commitment to continue their education beyond k-12 and shorten the time to earning a degree or certificate.
Community colleges, like CWI, College of Southern Idaho, and North Idaho College, are uniquely positioned to partner in these efforts. We already offer affordable options for students looking to attain an associate degree and then transfer on to a college/university for the next level of degree and/or directly enter the workforce. Dual credit is offered at an even lower rate per credit, and with the support of local foundations and the State of Idaho students have access to scholarship opportunities that help cover the cost.
Why is this important?
Research indicates that students who complete some form of early college are more likely to enroll in college and complete a degree. College enrollment after high school graduation was 80 percent vs. 71 percent, and degree attainment (primarily associate) was 22 percent vs. 2 percent. This is a tremendous opportunity to reach students early and bridge the gap to degree and career readiness.
Students today are no longer required to graduate high school before becoming a college student, and jobs today require more than a high school diploma. In essence, colleges and high schools have worked together to shorten the time to degree and find creative avenues to ensure it is affordable for all students. From high achieving student programs to alternative schools, CWI works with more than 70 public, charter, and private schools to ensure students have the opportunity to achieve college credits while still in high school.
Transferability and articulation of credits from one college to another has been a challenge across the nation. This year at CWI we took another step forward with the creation of the General Education Academic (GEA) Certificate. Consisting of 30 GEA credits and 6 institutionally designated credits endorsed by the Idaho State Board of Education, the GEA Certificate provides a foundation that prepares students for personal, communal, and global responsibility. The credits in the GEA Certificate program include courses required at every college/university in the state. Students who complete all 36 credits will receive a certificate of completion and their official college transcript will reflect that state wide college GEA requirements have been completed. Upon enrolling in a college/university students will be eligible to enroll in sophomore level coursework.
How teachers can get involved
In order for students to be able to earn college credits by taking a class at their high school, their high school teacher needs to be qualified by CWI’s teaching standards and the curriculum needs to be aligned with CWI’s college course equivalent. The alignment process consists of a CWI faculty liaison reviewing the high school’s existing curriculum with the teacher and making any adjustments that might be necessary. Approval to teach a particular class is dependent upon successful curriculum alignment process and mentor approval. This process has worked well and is generally accomplished within four weeks.
As we continue to work together to bridge the gap between high school and college, students throughout our state will benefit from this jump start opportunity. The jobs of the future require a higher level of education and workplace ready skills. As a president of an Idaho college, I am very excited to be a part of helping bridge the gaps and increasing the percentage of students who go on to earn a degree or certificate. These efforts will ensure the phenomenal quality of life we already enjoy in Idaho and help our economy continue to flourish into the future.
For more information on CWI’s Dual Credit program visit http://cwidaho.cc/programs-degrees/dual-credit.
- Idaho State Board of Education Report on Dual Credit (Jan 2015)
*Data analyzed using the Idaho Statewide Longitudinal Data System for Idaho college and university students from 2011 through 2014.
- Early College High School Initiative Impact Study (Sep 2013) http://www.air.org/sites/default/files/downloads/report/ECHSI_Impact_Study_Report_Final1_0.pdf
Study conducted by the Association of Institutional Research on behalf of the Gates Foundations Early College High School Initiative.
Bert Glandon is the president of the College of Western Idaho.