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Dual-Credit Enrollment Gives Students Jump Start on College

To motivate kids to go to college and take a chunk out of the ever-increasing cost, high schools are coming up with innovative ways to help students get a jump start on college coursework.

Take Crown Point High School in northern Indiana. Last year, it piloted a new dual-credit course program in partnership with Indiana University Northwest, Purdue University Calumet, and Ivy Tech Community College.

For $15 per credit hour, high school juniors and seniors can sign up for classes ranging from physics to accounting to culinary arts to auto technology. While the school had been successful with Advanced Placement classes, the AP program only served up to 25 percent of students. The goal of the dual-enrollment program, said Principal Eric Ban, is to increase access to college curriculum for more students.

"We are starting to create a college-going culture in the school," Ban said. "We can't serve the needs of just some. We need to serve the needs of all."

By the end of the first year, 64 percent of Crown Point's graduates left with a college transcript in their hands or a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam. Students earned a total of 3,300 credits and saved their families a combined $700,000 in tuition expenses, Ban said.

"Think about the economic impact of this if it goes to scale," said Ban, who plans to continue the program. For $135, Crown Point students can have 9 credit hours completed before their first day of college. And the courses are relevant. The high school's new Pathways program looked at the top 50 jobs in demand in the state. Then it offered courses required under two- and four-year degree plans for those careers.

Classes are taught inside the high school and assessments are done online. Crown Point teachers collaborate with local professors to make sure that all courses meet college-level criteria. To make sure the students are performing, the high school uses BrainHoney individualized learning system technology from Agilix Labs. A random sample of about 10 percent of the high school students' work is submitted to faculty for review and then compared to the grades given by the high school teacher for quality assurance.

"There is a huge gap between what high school thinks is important and college thinks is important, and we need to bridge that gap," Ban said.

This approach has teachers talking with professors and getting a better understanding of how to align the curriculum. And it's challenging students more and motivating them for college. Ban is encouraged by the model and hopes it will catch on. "Good ideas tend to plant seeds in other places," he said. "Dual credit often times is just a small thing. It shouldn't be. It should be a big thing for lots of kids."

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