Texas students don’t earn much by taking college courses in high school

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Educators have long touted the benefits of offering college courses in high school: The courses help more students get into college and fast-track them on the path to graduation so they can save on tuition. Now, a new study from Texas suggests those benefits could be inflated.

According to the 15-year study conducted for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, high school students who take college courses — known as dual credit courses — have a college enrollment rate of about 2.4 percentage points higher than those who do not enroll in dual credit. College completion rates were about 1.1 percentage points higher.

The study also found that students who enroll in dual credit courses finish college about a month earlier than their peers, the equivalent of a summer term.

” It’s not surprising. I’ve had enough of some people claiming that dual credit is a silver bullet. It is not,” said Raymund Paredes, Texas Commissioner of Higher Education. “If students aren’t ready for college, the question remains whether they should start with dual credit. »


Dual credit courses were originally designed to give high-achieving students more challenging work. High schools across the country, however, have enrolled students with varying academic backgrounds in courses, arguing that greater rigor leads to better results. In Texas, the number of students enrolled in dual credit courses has increased dramatically. In 2000, there were approximately 18,500 students enrolled in dual credit. In 2016, more than 200,000 students were enrolled in college courses in high school.

The trend is more pronounced in some neighborhoods than in others. At Humble ISD, located in the northeast Houston metro area, nearly one in four students earned college hours through dual-credit courses in 2016-17. That same year, only about 1.6% of ISD Fort Bend students earned college hours through dual credit courses.

The study, released Thursday by the American Institutes for Research, measured the real impact of dual credit courses on a student’s future. Findings show there are positive effects of taking a dual credit course, but they tend to benefit more academically prepared students, who tend to be white and live in lower-income households higher. Students enrolled in dual credit who do not excel academically and come from low-income households do not benefit from tuition, the study finds.

“They’re good for low-income students, if the students are college-ready,” Paredes said. “Access without preparation is not an opportunity. If students are not academically prepared to do college-level work, it can backfire.

The researchers, however, excluded early secondary schools from the study. These programs typically allow students to earn associate degrees while still in high school. National data and rankings show that these campuses tend to outperform their peers.

Three of Houston ISD’s top five varsity high schools are ranked among the top 10 high schools in the entire district, according to U.S. News and World Report’s annual high school rankings.

Brandi Brotherton, principal of Alief Early College High School in southwest Houston, said about 87 of the 103 seniors at her school have earned an associate’s degree. Brotherton also spent 14 years as the headteacher at Alief ISD’s Elsik High School, which is a traditional campus.

She said regular high school students may not be looking to earn four-year or even two-year college degrees when they enroll in dual-credit courses, which can include college certification courses. industry for things like auto mechanics and refrigeration technology. Teachers there instead need to focus on students’ goals and how to achieve them, she said, whether or not a four-year institution is part of that plan.

Another issue could be the board, Brotherton said. At her school, a counselor is responsible for guiding about 200 students to four-year colleges and universities. The district as a whole has about one counselor for every 349 students, according to the Texas Education Agency, the second-lowest ratio in the region. By comparison, there is only one counselor for every 1,111 students at Houston ISD. Brotherton said counselors in traditional schools see students who have a wider range of needs and hopes for their future.

“On a traditional high school campus, counselors wear so many more hats and ideas about what students need to succeed that it’s virtually impossible for them to expect every student to go to a four-star college. years,” Brotherton said. “Even if they’re in a dual credit class, that doesn’t necessarily mean the student’s goal in life is to go to a four-year college.”

The authors of the study will present policy recommendations to the Coordinating Council in October after collecting public feedback on their findings until the end of August.

alejandro.matos@chron.com

shelby.webb@chron.com

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