Legislation Would Ensure Dual Enrollment Courses Pay Off

A growing number of Loudoun County students are leaving high school with much more than a secondary school diploma. They’re leaving with as much as a year’s worth of college credit under their belt.

About 3,500 of the county’s public school students are signed up for at least one dual enrollment course this year. That means those students are taking free college-level classes on their high school campus, taught by a Loudoun County Public School teacher who’s been certified as an adjunct professor. In general, students who do well in those classes should expect to satisfy required general education courses at their college or university of choice. But some have been surprised to find out long after they’ve completed the coursework that their credits are not transferable to some of the state’s top schools.

Community college leaders, the biggest providers of dual enrollment in Virginia, and Loudoun public school leaders want a more transparent program, to encourage more high school students to enroll in the free classes and to see them get the full advantage of the program designed to save them thousands of dollars in tuition.

Legislation is working its way through the General Assembly that aims to require Virginia colleges and universities to agree on one standard for dual enrollment courses or, at the very least, tell high school students up front whether their college or university will be accept the course they’re considering taking.

Loudoun County Del. Thomas “Tag” Greason (R-32), who sits on the House Education Committee, drafted the House version of the bill (HB1162) after he kept hearing from parents who were surprised and disappointed to find out their children’s dual enrollment credits were rejected by their university.

“I talked to all the universities and said hey, that’s not helpful for the consumer. What can we do to improve this?” Greason said.

Last week, the House and Senate versions of the bill passed unanimously, and Greason expects the governor to support it. The delegate said the goal is to make the work done by the school systems to offer dual enrollment—which includes paying for their teachers to be certified professors—as well as the work of the students, worth it.

Beth Doyle, who oversees Loudoun County Public Schools’ dual enrollment programs, said this change would be huge for Loudoun. The school system enrolls more students in dual enrollment courses than any other Northern Virginia school division, even more than Fairfax County, the state’s largest school system. Enrollment in Loudoun in those courses has more than doubled in the past two years, since the Northern Virginia Community College, the region’s biggest provider of dual enrollment courses, agreed to waive tuition fees.

Doyle said guidance counselors are careful to not guarantee to students that their college or university will accept their credits. “Right now we just say these are highly transferrable, but really you need to check to make sure it’s going to count toward your specific program,” Doyle said. “It will be great if we can get more transparency. Maybe it will be a little bit easier to navigate the process.”

“It’s a bit of a patchwork quilt, in terms of what universities will accept what,” Julie A. Leidig, provost at Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun County campus, said.

She is advocating an across-the-board standard for all Virginia colleges and universities, so that, for example, a Loudoun high school student can take his or her dual enrollment credits to NVCC to earn an associate’s degree and then on to a four-year university to put toward a bachelor’s. “It cuts down on the unpredictability in terms of what students and their families can expect,” she said.

Sean Hillissey will graduate in June from Woodgrove High School with 29 dual enrollment credits. He’s hoping most, if not all, will transfer to his college of choice. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
It would be a big help for students like Sean Hillissey, a senior at Woodgrove High School. He is one of 486 Woodgrove students taking dual enrollment classes this year and he’s considering attending Penn State, one of the eight schools that has accepted him. “But it’s $47,000 a year,” he added with a grimace about the out-of-state tuition.

His college decision could teeter on what schools accept his 29 dual enrollment credits that he will have earned by June.

Woodgrove’s Director of Counseling Geri Fiore tells students to specifically ask if the higher education institution they’re considering will take the credits, especially for students eyeing top-tier schools, like Yale and the College of William & Mary. “Those schools want to see rigorous course work,” she said.

But, she added, that the impetus is also on the high schools to keep a good reputation for producing high-performing students who will do well at some of the nation’s best colleges. “At Woodgrove, we challenge our dual enrollment teachers to keep it rigorous,” she said. “Because schools like James Madison University want to accept students who are college- and career-ready.”

Leidig acknowledged that getting nearly 40 of Virginia’s public higher education institutions to agree on a standard will be tough, but it’s doable. The legislation on its way to the governor’s desk tasks the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia with seeing that it gets done.

“It won’t be easy. But if everybody keeps the students’ best interest at heart, I think it can be done.”


7 thoughts on “Legislation Would Ensure Dual Enrollment Courses Pay Off

  • 2017-02-14 at 1:26 pm

    These classes are not rigorous. Even the AP classes are not equivalent to courses at top-tier universities and about 1/3 of students do not pass the AP exams. With dual enrollment, almost nobody fails the course.

    While it’s great to offer more courses and give students seeking an associate’s degree a leg up, these dual enrollment courses should be understood for what they are – marketing tools. The reason Virginia schools give full credit is to entice kids to attend their school. AP courses could just as easily serve this purpose but Virginia schools know not all kids can pass the APs. They want to funnel those kids to their schools and gain their tuition $$$$.

    Tag Greason couldn’t care less what students learn as long as they get a passing grade. He believes it’s all about being a salesman anyway so what good are objective metrics, right Tag?

  • 2017-02-14 at 5:31 pm

    No idea what classes you are talking about but my Dual Enrollment class kicks butt. The syllabus goes through a review by both LCPS and NVCC. My class is visited and evaluated by an assistant dean from NVCC. The required readings are solid. The written work required is college level. In fact, LCPS students do more classroom hours than their NVCC counterparts. If there is not a high failure rate, it is because we only accept students who can pass the NVCC entrance requirements and we weed out slackers before the NVCC withdraw date. Delegate Greason is completely justified in his work.

    • 2017-02-14 at 6:46 pm

      “We only accept students that can pass NVCC entrance requirements”. My point exactly. No offense to the students looking to obtain an associates degree as there are valuable jobs that don’t need a bachelors. But these are not equivalent to courses at UVA, Ivy schools, or most of the public/private elite schools.

      We understand why you want to recruit students to your institution and why you discourage use of AP courses. So why don’t we see if your students can pass the AP test at the same rate they pass your courses?

      If the point is to generate “paper” (not necessarily an awful goal with the useless reqt for degrees these days), then congratulations Tag. If the point is to get students ready for rigorous college work, then it is a failure.

  • 2017-02-16 at 10:03 am

    SGP – have you spoken with any student in a DE class? Have you spoken with any student who has ever taken a DE class? What metrics are you using? Admit it, you never talk to anyone to see if they are prepared for college or anyone who has graduated to see if their high school education paved their way. In fact, do you ever use any data in your clams other than what you are able to google and interpret to your own ends?

    You have no insights into DE classes or AP classes.

    As a parent of children who have taken both and are now at college, I do have concerns about specific issue with their high school education but DE and AP classes are part of them. They learned how to research, write, and communicate. They are competitive with college peers from around the country.

    You objection to DE classes is like your objection to LCPS, only a projection of your own inadequacies.

    • 2017-02-16 at 11:58 am

      Regardless of how much you try to attack the messenger, you cannot refute the facts. In fact, you never cite any facts but just spout self-serving anecdotes about your own kids or class.

      Here are the facts. One third of AP exams in Loudoun are failures. Practically none of the DE students fail. This is reminiscent of the grades given out in Susan Ross LVHS AP exams where they had the highest GPA but lowest AP pass rate in the county. I’m sure you think that is great work by Ross.

      If you want easy grades, taste these DE classes. As Alex Fogelson told me and a debate student two years ago, he doesn’t think kids want to learn anything, just get a good grade and retake the class in college.

      I wonder if LCPS will publish hard data on these courses. Who am I kidding?

      • 2017-02-16 at 5:08 pm

        I am. It attacking their messenger, SGP. I don’t know you so how can I attack you. No attacking your lack of experiences, your methodology, selective memory, data sources, decision making, personal integrity, communication skills, lack of insight, nonexistent connections to actual educators, personal commitment to Loudoun County , motivations , calculations and so much more. But attacking you?

        For example, you claim that LCPS is failing our students because there is only a two-third pass rate across AP test. What you neglect to consider is that this is a good number when you look at pass rates across the country. But I expect you know but chose to hide it to make you sound like a winner. #sosad

        • 2017-02-20 at 12:23 pm

          I never said the passing rate was below average. In fact, I commended AP test takers for having to pass a rigorous exam. Dual enrollment students have no such requirement. Thus, none of them pass.

          CareerSwitcher claims to be a teacher but nobody knows what he actually is because he hides behind a screen name. #makingstuffup I did talk to a “career switcher” named Alex Fogelson who taught HS math in Loudoun and said i) kids don’t care what they learn, ii) kids expect to have to retake AP courses in college, and iii) doesn’t think he did teach math requirements if he doesn’t agree with them.

          This Fogelson character was a pathetic example of a teacher and career switcher in Loudoun. I hope you don’t know him. Maybe he can grow some courage and state what he believes for himself.

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