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Ohio Program Aims to Expand Equal Access to Dual Enrollment

This fall, Ohio will roll out a new program aimed at increasing college completion by encouraging more students to get a jump start on their degree while still in high school.

The state's College Credit Plus program will require every school district to offer and actively encourage students in grades 7-12 to take a dual-enrollment course. Students can either enroll in a nearby college, take courses taught by a qualified teacher at their high school, or sign up online to earn credit at no cost to them.

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The program was approved by the Ohio legislature last year and is based on a set of recommendations from a task force charged by the governor with improving access and the quality of dual-enrollment programs in state, according to Lauren McGarity, director of special projects for the Ohio Board of Regents.

The measure was designed to remove barriers and ensure that all students in the state would have a chance to earn college credit before graduation.

"We hope that it will energize students to think beyond high school," said McGarity in an interview. "We want it to stimulate students' excitement about continuing their education...to feel good about their ability to accomplish college-level work."

To participate, students must take the initiative to enroll in a two- or four-year college. Rather than the district setting its own criteria, such as a minimum grade point average, students just must meet the admission threshold set by the institution where they want to take a class, said McGarity. Admission may require a placement test or college-entrance exam, but high schools cannot limit the opportunity to the highest achieving students.

Students will not be charged tuition, fees, or books to take a course through College Credit Plus. A complex per-pupil funding formula will provide districts money for each student to cover the costs. While no new money was allocated for the program, Gov. John Kashich this week asked for nearly $13.5 million in state funding in next year's budget to pay for additional training to prepare high school teachers to teach college-level courses. 

Ohio's current dual-enrollment structure, the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, is not tightly regulated. The new approach is an attempt to level the playing field and offer all students in the state the same opportunity to participate in accelerated coursework, said McGarity.

While Ohio officials researched programs in other states, McGarity said the College Credit Plus is a unique model that the state hopes will ease the transition from high school to college and, ultimately, lead to greater college success.

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