Nationally and in California, policy makers, employers and educators have focused new attention on two strategies that principally affect our occupational programs today, but which have the potential of affecting all programs in the college.
One strategy is strengthening the linkages between secondary schools and higher education; the other is expanding opportunities for high school students to take college courses: concurrent or dual enrollment.
(Concurrent enrollment has the added effect of linking the schools and colleges). People point to these two strategies when they discuss their concerns about a lack of college readiness of high school students and the high number of secondary dropouts, the demographic shift in the state, the high school exit exam (CAHSEE) and the evolving educational demands and expectations from the state's employers.
At the Fall 2007 Plenary Session, the Academic Senate passed two resolutions about concurrent enrollment. Resolution 4.01 encourages expanding the opportunities for concurrent enrollment. Resolution 4.02 urges senates to hold local discussions about the potential expansion of concurrent enrollment, while a related resolution, 21.01 suggests that senates consider eliminating the practice of delaying the awarding of credit earned by high schools students (under "residency requirements").
Now that the Academic Senate has these positions, where do we go from here?
Status of discussions in California
Discussions are already underway across the state about how to modify the restrictions on enrolling high school students in college courses. (Note that such courses may be held on the college campus or at a high school.) At the time of the publication of this Rostrum, the Chancellor's Office is working closely with Assemblymember Portantino to gain passage of his legislation, AB 1409. Efforts are underway to ensure that the legislation, at a minimum, extends current exemptions to the five percent cap on summer concurrent enrollment. Chapter 648, Statutes of 2006, SB 1303 (Runner) amended provisions governing concurrent enrollment by exempting high school students from the summer enrollment cap if enrolled in college-level transfer courses, career technical courses that are part of a sequence that leads to a degree or certificate, and courses necessary for 5th year seniors to pass the California High School Exit Exam. The exemptions are scheduled to expire January 1, 2009, unless extended through legislation. A task group of the Consultation Council that includes faculty and administrator representatives will work with Chancellor's Office staff to discuss appropriate next steps, including future legislative changes.
Issues for College Faculty
Another article in this Rostrum, "Concurrent Enrollment: Opportunities and Considerations" reminds faculty about the issues that arise when we have minors in the classroom and urges local senates to ensure appropriate policies are in place. In addition to the suggestions in that article, faculty at the Fall 2007 Plenary Session raised additional questions or concerns. It was suggested that we should have limitations on enrollment (e.g. a limit of how many high school students can enroll in a given section. They pointed out that we would not want to sacrifice the current adult classroom climate with the addition of too many adolescents). Because these students are new to college they need support services such as orientation, counseling, instruction in appropriate college behavior and study skills. There need to be safeguards to protect academic freedom as well as the college level course material appropriate for adult learners. The potential financial benefits should not be the primary criterion for deciding to expand concurrent enrollment. Finally, they said that expanding current enrollment will necessitate additional faculty support and development opportunities.
Because community college faculty are concerned about the success of all of our students, we recognize that some of the practices and strategies that have worked for students in the past many not be successful with today's students who have different needs and characteristics. Advocates of concurrent enrollment point to the equity and diversity benefits that occur when secondary students (our potential college students) are given early exposure to college.
The high school students who benefit most from concurrent enrollment are often those who are the most diverse and from families that do not have college graduates.
When such students understand that a course they took while in high school counts for college credit, it is less difficult for them to imagine themselves in college, for in truth they are already in college. Or when they set foot on a college campus, new opportunities open up. (See Defending the Community College Equity Agenda, edited by Thomas Bailey and Vanessa Morest, John Hopkins University Press, 2006).
However, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, around 20% of California community college districts were found to have violated concurrent enrollment regulations, and as a result many administrators and faculty in the state are leery of the practice or are uncertain about what is legal/appropriate and what is not. The Chancellor's Office will continue to inform administrators about the restrictions and limitations as well as any future changes in what is allowable.
Why this is important
At Plenary Session Fall 2007 we distributed some brief background about concurrent enrollment in the appendices to the resolutions. Your college delegate received a paper copy, or you may go to http://www.asccc.org/Events/sessions/fall2007/materials.A good source of information is the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, which has reported extensively on concurrent enrollment (http://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu). The University of Minnesota's Oct. 2007 publication, The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States, found some positive and statistically significant differences in concurrently enrolled students' rates of earning high school diplomas, of enrolling fully in college, and in their GPAs. There were also gains in persistence and the number of credits earned. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education Oct 17, 2007 ("High-School Students Are Helped by Taking College Courses, Study Finds" by Elyse Ashburn) announced the release of that University of Minnesota report and began by saying, "Students who take college courses while in high school are more likely than their peers to graduate, to go on to college, and to do well in college, a new study suggests." The article went on to say, "The courses appear to be especially beneficial for male students, students from low-income families, and those who struggled academically in high school."
Where to from here?
While there appear to be benefits for students, local senates need to determine the best policies and practices for their students and their college. At the same time, representatives at the state level will continue to participate in the development of any new state policies, and we will provide you with updates as discussions progress.