The rising cost of college has everybody scared. And I do not mean just students and parents. University administrators and government honchos are getting in on the hand-wringing, too.

Yep, everybody’s looking for ways to get the cost college down. Thankfully, out of the weeping and wailing, some impressive options have taken shape. Starting in high school, students are being equipped with the tools to start their college education before they even hit junior prom. You might know about advanced placement (AP) course—they’ve been around for awhile. But dual enrollment programs are taking the same idea to the next level.


Testing In with AP Classes

Almost every high school in America has AP classes. These high school classes teach students (usually juniors and seniors) college-level curricula. Each class culminates in an AP exam. If a student does well on an AP exam, they get college credit for that course. If they do really well, their score could help them to get into a top college.

While the whole AP thing can seem like just another way of creating an elite class of students, another level above honors classes, the idea here is that high school students, can get their general, freshman-level classes out of the way before they get their high school diplomas.

Theoretically speaking, this means students have fewer courses to pay tuition on once they get to college and they get out into the workforce faster.

The only problem with this approach to accelerating college education and lowering costs is that it doesn’t do enough. Students get many of their freshmen classes out of the way, but they can’t go any further than that.

That’s where dual enrollment comes in…

High School, Then College… or Both at the Same Time?


A few weeks ago, I met a teenager at church. In the course of our conversation, he said he was a senior. I assumed he meant he was a high school senior, so I asked him which local high school he attended. That’s when he corrected me and told me he was a college senior at a local college.

Unable to hide my surprise, I asked him how old he was.

“Nineteen,” he replied.

Still surprised, I asked him if he just started high school at an early age and graduated onto college early.

No, he responded, but he started taking college courses during his sophomore year of high school. He had continued taking college courses through high school, and now, at 19 years of age, he was nearly ready to finish his bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Now, I wasn’t so out of touch that I hadn’t heard of dual enrollment before, but this was the first time I’d seen such a dramatic example. I couldn’t deny how appealing the idea was: a 19-year-old a year away from graduating with a bachelors, ready to join the workforce. And for every college course he’d taken during high school, his school district had paid the bill. Technically, he hadn’t paid for a single credit hour until he’d graduated from high school.

Surely, with the amazing results these programs can bring, there are also issues. School districts who have sponsored these programs have seen their budgets squeezed by all those tuition payments. Those costs are inevitably paid for by the taxpayer.

And then there’s the question of maturity: are 19-year-olds really ready to work in offices, conference rooms, etc.? Has the shortcut of dual enrollment totally bypassed the maturing process that usually takes place during the four years of college? Are these young adults being pushed out into the labor market before they’re ready?

For sure, these dual enrollment programs aren’t for your run-of-the-mill high schooler. Only the most ambitious teens will be able or willing to handle the workload of high school combined with the workload of college courses.

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