As enrollment has increased in dual-credit programs in Texas, state lawmakers have raised concerns that some high school students may be taking college courses that will not count toward their degree programs. Proposals could emerge during the regular session of the 86th Legislature in 2019 to require more advising and degree planning for high school students who enroll in dual-credit coursework.
Dual-credit courses, typically offered under agreements between school districts and local community colleges, are college-level classes that allow high school students to earn both college and high school credit. Education Code, sec. 28.009 requires all school districts to implement a program in which students may earn the equivalent of at least 12 hours of college credit while in high school. That credit may be earned through dual-credit courses, advanced placement (AP) courses, and certain other courses.
Legislators in 2015 removed limits on the number of dual-credit courses in which high school students could enroll, touting their potential to save time and money in earning college degrees. In the 2017 fall semester, 151,669 students were enrolled in dual-credit courses, an increase of 57 percent over a 10-year period, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Committees on higher education in the House and Senate were charged this interim with evaluating the effectiveness of dual-credit courses in reducing time to earn a degree and making college more affordable for students and the state. The Senate Committee on Higher Education in its interim report recommended the 86th Legislature require high school students to file degree plans upon completion of 15 semester credit hours of academic or career and technical dual credit. The report also recommended incentives be created to better advise students about how to best align dual-credit courses with their planned college majors. The House Committee on Higher Education’s interim report recommended dual-credit students receive advising and support to prepare for college, including help with degree planning and financial aid. The report also recommended the committee continue exploring the rigor, content, and outcomes of dual-credit programs.
In addition to the committee interim charges, the Higher Education Coordinating Board was required by the 85th Legislature (SB 802 by Seliger) to identify best practices in transferring course credit between institutions of higher education to ensure that courses, including dual-credit courses, apply toward a degree program.
The coordinating board’s study, published in October, focused on a cohort of 12,823 students who earned college credit between fall 2011 and summer 2013, graduated from high school, enrolled in a two-year or four-year public institution of higher education in fall 2013, and obtained a bachelor’s degree by 2017. Of the cohort, 73 percent graduated without any excess credit hours and 27 percent graduated with excess credit hours. The study found that those who earned the most credit hours while in high school were likely to graduate with the most excess credit.
As a result of the study, the coordinating board recommends the Legislature require dual-credit students to file degree plans after earning 30 semester credit hours. This would be similar to a requirement enacted last session (HB 655 by Clardy) for students enrolled in a community college degree program.
The Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) also is promoting earlier planning for students earning dual credit. It recommends the 86th Legislature require dual-credit students to declare a meta-major or field of study upon completion of 12 semester credit hours in core academic subjects or declare a career path upon completion of 12 semester credit hours in career and technical education.
By Janet Elliott