The best-kept secret in higher education may be the key to growing Indiana’s workforce
By Thomas J. Snyder
President, Ivy Tech Community College
With all the recent attention given to the increasing costs of college and burgeoning student debt, you would think there’d be no secrets left when it comes to helping families save money on higher education. Unfortunately, there’s one option that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves: dual credit.
Dual credit allows high school juniors and seniors to simultaneously earn both high school credit and college credit. Dual credit classes are free, which results in a significant cost savings for families of college-bound students. During the 2011-12 academic year, for example, Ivy Tech Community College helped Indiana families save more than $14 million in college tuition due to student enrollment in dual credit classes. And we are the only school to offer dual credit at no charge to the student.
Dual credit enrollment has certainly grown in recent years. In 2011-12, nearly 30,000 students took dual credit classes—an increase of 18 percent over 2010-11 and more than 240 percent since 2008-09. When you consider that 322 Indiana high schools currently offer dual credit programs, however, it becomes clear that there is much untapped potential. Certainly, with an average of less than 100 students enrolled in dual credit courses at each participating high school, there are others who could benefit from dual credit. Certainly, in times like these when funding a college education has become such a challenge, there are more families that could benefit from another way to save money.
There is one way that we can change dual credit from well-kept secret to well-utilized asset: greater awareness among those most likely to benefit when dual credit enrollment rises. This change starts with you and your ability to communicate this message.
How can you help? First, it’s important to understand that increased dual credit enrollment leads to a better educated workforce. Students who enroll in dual credit courses gain early exposure to college, which better prepares them for the rigor associated with postsecondary education. For some students who otherwise may not plan to continue their education, a dual credit course may provide the experience or inspiration they need to consider attending college. Also, dual credit courses accelerate the student’s progress toward completing a college degree, making it more likely they’ll finish and allowing them to enter the workforce earlier than would otherwise be possible.
In addition, you can help by encouraging parents of high school students to learn about dual credit. Given the tremendous opportunity for increased dual credit enrollment, it’s likely they may be unaware of all the ways in which families can benefit financially and students can benefit academically. It’s also likely they’ll be grateful to you for making them aware of it.
Finally, you can help by talking directly to any high school students and recent high school graduates you know. Are they aware of dual credit? Have they enrolled in dual credit courses in the past and, if so, are they aware that they already have credits toward a college degree? Often, the most difficult part of any journey is taking the first step. If students discover they are already on their way, it may provide just the incentive they need to continue.
One thing that’s definitely not a well-kept secret is the need for Indiana to produce more skilled workers. Our future depends upon an educated workforce, and today’s jobs require a college degree. Increased enrollment in dual credit courses won’t in itself be enough to resolve Indiana’s workforce deficit, but it’s one solution that offers the greatest benefit to the largest number of stakeholders. When dual credit enrollment increases, families win by saving on college costs. Students win by gaining exposure to college and accelerating their progress toward a degree. Employers win when dual credit leads to a better educated, more highly skilled workforce. And ultimately, we all win when these benefits come together to make a brighter future for Indiana.
Moving dual credit from well-kept secret to well-known asset will benefit all of us, but it will take effort from all of us, as well. Are you willing to help?