Head start on higher ed

Students are earning college credits in high school, hoping to cut their costs and get a head start on higher education, reports the Washington Post.

Mayra Avila is looking forward to her high school prom. She’s also a college student taking government and English composition courses.

. . . The West Potomac High School senior is among hundreds of thousands of teenagers getting a head start on an associate’s or bachelor’s degree — and saving on tuition — by taking college courses in high school.

In some cases, college instructors teach at a high school; in others, high school students go to the local community college. The rigor varies quite a bit.

I was distressed to read that Avila “wants to study dental hygiene at the community college in the fall and then transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University.” It’s not likely dental hygiene credits will count toward a four-year degree. This girl needs college counseling.

I wish someone would tell her those dental hygiene credits aren’t likely to count toward a four-year degree.

About Joanne


  1. True, she may be ignorant of the unlikeliness of transfer, but it is also possible that she is looking to the possibility that she will gain a marketable skill, that she can use part-time while attending college.

    In many states, any 2 year graduate of a community college can transfer in as a junior in any state college. Although she may need to pick up credits in her eventual major.

    Don’t forget, MANY students have credits that don’t count toward graduation – many of them from changing majors, or schools. So, I don’t consider it too critical that some of those credits may be “wasted”.

  2. Dual-credit is an imperative for the future of education, and states should be doing everything they can to support this sort of time/cost-saving measure for motivated students.

  3. va res says:

    Actually, VA has a robust articulation agreements between its community colleges and the 4yr publics. All of this information is available on the web. So your initial reaction is likely wrong in this situation.

  4. Liz in PA says:

    To add to va res, VCU actually offers a BS in Dental Hygiene.

  5. Minnesota’s state-wide PSEO (post secondary enrollment options, I think) offers high-school students the option to take courses at either community colleges or 4-year colleges, with the local district covering the expenses. Aimed at successful juniors and seniors, I also know of students who started right after 8th grade and never attended high school. I have heard that some elite colleges would not give transfer credit if the school district paid the fees, but would if the family paid the fees. It’s a point worth clarifying in advance with potential colleges.

  6. Cardinal Fang says:

    Quite a few colleges I know about won’t accept credits if the “community college” class was taught at a high school to high school students; they say such classes do not have the rigor of classes taught to college students at college.

  7. None of those colleges is a public university in Illinois, Cardinal Fang. The Illinois Articulation Initiative requires recognition of all dual-credit classes, no matter where they are taught.

  8. In the PSEO program, the kids go to the college of their choice and I don’t believe they are so-identified to the professors. Certainly, my son’s professor did not know he was in high school, until my son mentioned it in an out-of-class conversation.

  9. Virgil says:

    I would have to say that most community colleges would offer “duel enrollment” courses in order to generate cash without any real investment into their system. I have written two separate curriculum that were accepted by our local community college which offers students an opportunity to take entry level courses for a very small fee. They only have to meet a grade level and course grade requirement. Our textbooks and content material are aligned with the Community college. So it is a “win win” for both the students of our high school and the Community college.

  10. Tom in GA says:

    Usually, though not always, my most successful students in Precalculus are dual-enrolled high school students who function at a higher level above the general population at my community college. Draw your own conclusions…

  11. ucladavid says:

    This idea is nothing new. I was doing this when I was in high school in the late 90s. In California, if you pass all of your high school classes, you only need to take 8 classes your senior year. Thus, many of us left at lunch time our senior year and went to the community college for classes that night.
    Instead of taking AP Calculus or Pre-Calculus in high school, I went to my local community college and got college credit without the worry of the AP test. There were 5 other students from my high school who did the exact same thing regarding math. I took a college level US History class for summer school between my junior and senior years and got college credit.

  12. ucladavid is right–there is nothing new about taking community college courses during high school. (I did it in the seventies, too.)

    However, what IS new is the way that many students are combining high school, college courses, and study abroad during what would normally be the junior and senior years of high school. By doing some planning, many students are able to spend their junior year abroad, do dual enrollment their senior year (and summers between), and transfer to a four-year university at 18 as a junior. In fact, many of these students are graduating with a BA or BS at 19 or 20 with sizzling 21st-century skills (including fluency in a foreign language) and NO DEBT.

    We should be doing everything possible to encourage high school students to consider new ways to combine options in order to get the most relevant and exhilarating education possible–and the one most likely to prepare them for their most thrilling and fulfilling opportunities in the 21st-century economy.

    Oh, and about that dental hygiene student who wanted to transfer–she might be like one of the students I know who did that in order to have a marketable skill that would allow her to earn money while working her way through the rest of her college years. She went on to earn a BS in biotech–and was given an excellent scholarship for dental school!

  13. “Duel enrollment”? Is that with swords?