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Oklahoma's concurrent enrollment program remains strong

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When Terrance Grayson sits down with high school juniors and seniors at Rose State College, he lists a variety of benefits for pursuing the concurrent enrollment program. Through the program, high school students enroll in college courses and earn credits for high school and college at the same time. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education views it as a tool for increasing college-going rates.

The state’s goal is about the furthest thought on the minds of students who meet with Grayson, Rose’s concurrent enrollment coordinator. Students want to talk about completing their degree in less time and taking advantage of the state’s tuition waiver program.

Now in his seventh year working with concurrent students, Grayson sees getting students college ready as the program’s strongest asset.

“They get the chance to get baptized without getting thrown into the water,” Grayson said as he explained concurrent students transition into college life easier than their peers.

In the concurrent enrollment program, students learn to balance academics and socializing, pick up time management skills and meet those college-level expectations. This fall semester, nearly 425 high school students enrolled concurrently at Rose State College (RSC). The program grew by more than one-third when compared to a year earlier, college officials report.

Growing program

The number of Oklahoma students who earned college credit while still in high school has continued to rise since the state began the tuition waiver program in 2005, according to data from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the agency that oversees the state’s public universities and colleges.

Last year, officials report 11,722 enrolled students took a combined 103,125 credit hours at community colleges, regional universities and research universities across the state. Ninety-seven percent of the students passed or satisfactorily completed the courses.

Since 2005, data has shown students who dually enroll are more likely to succeed in postsecondary education than their peers.

Concurrent enrollment programs work in Oklahoma, said chancellor Glen Johnson, CEO for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, who shared the data during a recent Oklahoma Senate interim study. As the program has attracted more students, it’s no longer just high-achieving students who benefit from the challenging coursework, but students looking to jumpstart degree programs.

“We have some great stories,” Johnson said. “We have situations where students — before they physically ever step foot on a college campus — have 30 hours toward their college degree.”

Rural schools

Generally, concurrent enrollment refers to high school students who also are taking college courses, but how those students take them varies from institution to institution. Some students travel to the college campus. In some cases, a professor travels to a high school to offer a college class.

Jan Bugby, RSC director of academic outreach, said high school students from Del City, Carl Albert High School, Midwest City and Star Spencer High School travel to the community college campus. However, in the early 2000s, the college developed an instructional television system to reach rural and smaller schools outside the Oklahoma City metro area.

Instructors teach in front of cameras while high schoolers participate in the course as it’s broadcast into their classroom more than 30 miles away.

The system, known as Interactive Television (I-TV), has improved over the years with advances in technology. This year, Perry, Holdenville and Maud high school students joined RSC’s program through I-TV. All three schools are more than 50 miles away from Midwest City.

“This allows a lot of kids that wouldn’t be able to come to our college [to] take classes,” Bugby said.

Adding new high schools helped increase RSC’s enrollment, but students frustrated by a lack of advanced offerings at their home high schools spur interest in the program, she said.

With public college and university tuition cost increases, students and families view the tuition waiver as a deal. The state covers the cost of up to six credit hours per semester.

Concurrent students must meet eligibility requirements, like earning a score of 19 or higher on the ACT. Bugby said it takes a dedicated, driven and mature high school student to succeed in college-level courses.

One goal of RSC’s program is to establish relationships with the concurrent students. It’s not uncommon for Bugby to chat with a student over the phone and recommend tutoring options or let them know that a professor will host a review before a big test.

Additionally, Bugby and her team communicate students’ progress with their home high school. Rarely does the academic outreach office come across a concurrent student struggling and unable to pass a class, Bugby said.

Program future

Before Oklahoma established the tuition waiver, many institutions offered concurrent enrollment, but high school students paid the college tuition and fees.

The program costs $8.3 million for the 2016-17 academic year, and state funding covers 62.8 percent.

For the remaining balance, the Oklahoma Board of Regents passed plans to invest reserve funds, and individual institutions have found funding sources to plug in the remaining balance. The Oklahoma Legislature has fully funded the program once since 2008, when state appropriations covered the program at $2.9 million for 6,825 students.

Despite state regents taking a $153 million budget cut for the current fiscal year, the Legislature will be asked to fully fund the program next year, Johnson said.

“We believe it is one of those game changers that moves the needle as far as degree competition,” he said.

Print headline: Dual value, Education officials report encouraging results for concurrent enrollment programs.

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