Concurrent Enrollment: Opportunities and Considerations

Executive Committee

At the Fall Plenary Session in Anaheim, several more resolutions about high school student success were added to an already growing number of prior positions taken on high school topics such as articulation, competencies, partnerships, retention, the exit exam, etc. Two resolutions in particular, 4.01 F07 and 4.02 F07, focus on students from the high schools that are concurrently enrolled at community colleges and thus become our students. Local senates have been advised to begin discussions regarding this cohort of students, and in general, all colleges are encouraged to expand opportunities for concurrent enrollment.

Concurrent enrollment typically refers to high school students who simultaneously earn college credit from a community college.

The high school students could be on the campus in an organized way, say in a middle college high school, or share classes through an articulation agreement sponsored by Tech Prep. Other students could be interested in more challenging coursework or classes that are not offered at their high school. These students are not only juniors and seniors, but more and more, concurrently enrolled students are freshmen and sophomores.

There are considerable advantages for embracing this new group of students. As the resolutions state and debaters acknowledged, the benefits reaped by high school students taking classes at our colleges include exposure to outstanding teaching, the likelihood of increased interest and success in college, higher persistence rates, and even higher grade point averages. The success of the students is matched by the enviable marketing strategy of growing your own students.

With the need to increase FTES as strong as ever, this new group of students is especially attractive to those responsible for managing enrollment. In some areas across the state, high school enrollments are declining, causing a ripple effect in community colleges, so it makes sense to capture the interest of high school students now. In contrast, when a college reaches its funded growth limit, will this new cohort of students disappear as the darling of college leaders? Will the doors to high school students close? Faculty members of enrollment management committees and teams ought to keep in mind the negative effects of singling out any one cohort when addressing enrollment challenges.

The decision to attract and support concurrently enrolled students, despite funding concerns, means that a college and/or district has committed to this special population with full knowledge of the issues surrounding teaching minors. One year ago, the Academic Senate adopted the paper, including its recommendations for admitting and enrolling younger students in college, called Minors on Campus: Underage Students at Community Colleges. The paper can be accessed at This primer on the issues surrounding teaching, counseling, and enrolling minor students addresses many of the challenges local colleges will face as expansion of concurrent enrollment begins. For most colleges, infrastructure is not yet in place to manage the myriad issues that stem from occasionally including minors in classes to fervently seeking and recruiting those students to our colleges.

Without duplicating all the recommendations in the paper, it is useful to consider a few major issues that must be resolved before a college can feel confident in protecting teaching and learning with minors present. First, faculty who teach controversial course content, and in fact all faculty, should be encouraged and supported to maintain the quality of curriculum and academic freedom to teach the course according to their professional judgment regardless of the age of the students in the class. Second, child abuse reporting policies and procedures must be in place along with a mechanism to inform teachers when minors are enrolled in a class. Third, effective communication with high school students and their parents about college rules and life will diminish the problems associated with navigating two educational systems concurrently. While not exhaustive, the paper reveals some scenarios and best practices to assist colleges in serving this population of students who bring complexities to the standard adult world of community colleges.

The paper also includes a section of frequently asked questions that faculty have asked about minors in classes. Topics range from specific questions about reporting child abuse to authority in the classroom. If local senates and faculty have additional questions, please forward them to the president of the statewide Academic Senate.

In adding high school students to the list of students under the wing of the Academic Senate, faculty need to feel confident in championing for the special needs of this new group of students. Equally important, the faculty need to feel confident in the local systems in place to protect teaching and learning, to protect the safety of underage students, and to protect the rights of faculty and minor students choosing to experience college life. Concurrent enrollment will work for many students and faculty provided it motivates discussions that lead to greater tangible support for this special group of students, their parents, and the teachers, counselors and librarians who help them find success.