Last spring, a friend and former colleague of mine in Wyoming sent me a newspaper article about his 17-year old son, who was receiving his associate's degree from the local community college two weeks before he would receive his high school diploma. The son had participated in a dual enrollment program, in which juniors and seniors in high school who meet certain stipulations can earn both high school and college credit at no cost to the student. Although the financial benefit to high school students participating in the dual enrollment program is enormous, there is now a national study that validates the academic benefits of this type of program as well.
In a recent study done through the Community College Research Center at Columbia University's Teachers College, researchers found that students who take college courses while in high school increase their chances to graduate, go to college, and become more successful in college than their peers who do not participate in dual enrollment.
The report, "The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States," suggests that students who take college courses in high school are slightly more likely than their peers to earn high school diplomas and are 16.8 percent more likely to go to college.
Colorado has a dual enrollment program available to high school students called the Post Secondary Education Opportunity (PSEO) program. A few of the success stories about students taking advantage of PSEO at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) have come from Steamboat Springs High School students matriculating through a degree program at CMC. But most of the data regarding the success of dual enrollment has come from other districts and other states. It's time to unveil the secret about dual enrollment, and let the high school students in Steamboat Springs take advantage of this available opportunity.
In order for students to participate in PSEO through CMC, they must be at least 16 years old and a junior or senior in high school, have the approval of the appropriate administrator at their high school, demonstrate the necessary academic skills through testing, attend CMC student orientation, meet with a CMC counselor, submit a CMC application and other required paperwork, adhere to CMC rules and regulations, and receive a 'C' or better to receive both high school and college credit and also to receive reimbursement from the school district.
Participating in PSEO requires a commitment from the students, the high school administration, and the parents. However, in the end, the dividends from participating in the PSEO program are substantial.
Kerry Hart is dean of the Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs.