As part of a growing trend, students in high schools across the nation are beginning their college education early through dual enrollment programs. Dual enrollment has also grown in popularity in Jackson County. Dual enrollment programs offer high school students the opportunity to receive both high school credit and college credit for a college class.
Students pay the college tuition and fees for the class and receive a credit for the class on their high school and college transcript. In the Jackson County area, dual enrollment is offered through Northeast Alabama Community College (NACC).
“The Dual Enrollment Program has continued to expand over the years. We have seen a positive impact by granting this opportunity to our students and area schools,” said NACC President David Campbell. “We are proud of our students who take the initiative to get a head start on their college careers.”
According to NACC dual enrollment advisor, Staci Miller, there were 990 high school students enrolled in dual enrollment courses with NACC for the fall semester. Northeast Alabama Community College allows students to attend classes on the college’s campus, at their high school or online.
Currently, Fort Payne High School has the largest number of dual enrollment students where students can take English, history, math, biology, anatomy, computer science and safety procedures classes.
“Our numbers are also great throughout Jackson County,” said Miller. “We have a large number of dual enrollment students at North Jackson High School and Pisgah High School many dual enrollment classes are offered at these two locations. Scottsboro High School is also offering great opportunities to students with the medical care program.”
Although dual enrollment is thriving in North Alabama, students should consider their specific circumstances and educational goals before enrolling in dual enrollment.
Dual enrollment can be a great opportunity for high school students to take rigorous coursework while earning college credit. Students who choose to dual enroll can take classes that would normally not be available to them at the high school level.
Dual enrollment also allows students to experience college classes on a smaller scale before moving away to a four-year university.
Gabbie Walden is a senior at Scottsboro High School who has completed 30 hours of dual enrollment courses in her high school career. She appreciates the rigor of dual enrollment.
“The classes [I have taken] have challenged me academically and caused me to grow as a person. One positive that I cannot stress enough is how much I appreciate the challenges I’ve faced taking classes. There are definitely pros and cons to the academic path I’ve chosen, but in the end I’m glad I decided to take dual enrollment courses,” said Walden.
Chloe Putman is a senior at Skyline High School who has taken 12 dual enrollment classes since 2017.
“The best part about dual enrollment for me personally is I can do it on my own time and at home or school or on vacation,” said Putman.
Dual enrollment allows students to work on assignments and attend classes around their schedule through online courses. Dual Enrollment can also potentially save students time and money when they enter college after high school by allowing them to receive college credit for classes taken in high school. It is also great for homeschooled students who want to participate in a class and have control over their schedule.
While dual enrollment can be a good opportunity, it does have its risks. Students who fail a dual enrollment course will have that grade affect their high school G.P.A. (grade point average) and their college G.P.A. The class will also appear on both permanent transcripts. In addition, dual enrollment students often have to sacrifice extra time to attend college classes and spend less time on their high school campus.
While all public four-year universities in Alabama are required to accept transfer credits from Alabama community colleges, this is not the case outside of the state or for all private universities. Therefore, students planning to transfer to private or out-of-state universities should contact the appropriate university before completing dual enrollment coursework.
The qualifications for dual enrollment at Northeast Alabama Community College include a 2.5 G.P.A., a state issued identification, and the permission of the student’s high school. All dual enrollment students must have also completed the ninth grade.
“At Northeast, we are looking for high school dual enrollment students who are academically ready, mature and responsible,” said Miller.
Students who potentially benefit the most from dual enrollment are students who are looking to take coursework at a higher level than high school courses and want to get ahead on their college education, this can be helpful to those considering transferring to a four-year university or those entering a technical major.
Gabe Lyle, a sophomore at Scottsboro High School, enjoys that he can help lessen the amount of time he will have to spend in college while still in high school.
“The reason I did and will continue to do dual enrollment is because I feel it’s a first step towards college that you can do in high school. It also can get you an associate degree in high school, so you won’t have to spend so much time in college,” said Lyle.
Students should avoid dual enrollment courses if they struggle with self-discipline, have attendance issues or do not wish to start college early. While there are some scholarships available to dual enrollment students, high school students are ineligible for financial aid such as grants or loans.
Families should consider the cost of dual enrollment but understand that taking classes at a community college can be a good opportunity to take classes at a lower tuition-rate than at a four-year university.
Dual enrollment can have a significant impact on a student’s high school and college educational experience. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on each student. Students who have a concrete path set for life after high school are able to use dual enrollment to its fullest potential, but it can also be beneficial for students who are unsure about their goals in education.
Dual enrollment is highly individualized and the right decision for one student may be the wrong decision for another. In order to achieve the most academic success and prepare for college during high school, students should consider all aspects of dual enrollment and how it will affect their own lives before making any decisions.