Soapbox

Lawmakers can ease the path to college with dual enrollment

Ivania Areas, 18, of Natomas waits for the doors to open at the new American River College Natomas Center in 2013. Some legislators want to make it easier for high school students to take community college classes.
Ivania Areas, 18, of Natomas waits for the doors to open at the new American River College Natomas Center in 2013. Some legislators want to make it easier for high school students to take community college classes. Sacramento Bee file

As the battle over improving public education continues, students have been left behind. We are all to blame, and have to do everything we can to ensure that our children are prepared for the workforce of the 21st century.

That is why we are working in a bipartisan effort on a proven approach – concurrent or dual enrollment. With the introduction of Assembly Bill 288, we hope to expand opportunities for students to take community college courses while still in high school.

The measure, which goes before the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday, accelerates learning by increasing the number of classes students can take from 11 units to 15 units. Additionally, this bill increases transparency by requiring reports to show if students are succeeding in the program or not.

Dual enrollment is not a new idea, but there is a growing recognition that academically challenged students benefit immensely from early exposure to college. It also offers a path for those with an interest in technical careers by allowing high school students to earn certificates that can potentially lead to a job right after graduation.

More students than ever are beginning their college careers by taking remedial courses, ill-prepared for the college coursework that lies ahead. The chancellor of the California Community College system estimates that nearly 74 percent of freshmen do not qualify for college-level English and math courses. Despite numerous laws and lawsuits, minority students, who often work harder to combat the effects of an inadequate education, continue to lag behind.

Dual enrollment programs benefit a wide range of students with encouraging results including lower dropout rates and lower costs of a college education by decreasing the time and the number of credits that students need to graduate.

Most importantly, dual enrollment opens doors of opportunity for kids who may never have thought it possible to go to college.

With AB 288, we hope to expand opportunities for these students by encouraging school districts and community colleges to enter into formal partnership agreements with a focus on both gifted students and underperforming students.

In the long run, concurrent enrollment programs will accelerate student progress through college, save money for students and reduce the $2.3 billion price tag on remedial education in this country.

School districts all across the country are adopting this new model. If California does this right, it could show the rest of the country smarter ways to invest in students.

Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, is Assembly majority leader. Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, is Assembly minority leader.

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