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January 19, 2012 8:47 am

EDITORIAL: NWC approach to concurrent enrollment a positive one

Written by Don Amend

Among the efforts to encourage Wyoming high school students to pursue higher education is an increased focus on making enrollment in college courses available to students while they still are in high school.

For many years, high school students have had access to dual enrollment, which gives them the ability to enroll and attend classes at Wyoming’s community colleges. They may have traveled to the college or attended through a distance learning set-up.

While many students took advantage of the opportunity, though, dual enrollment did cause scheduling problems for the high schools. The class day is structured differently in college than it is in high school, so taking a dual enrollment class might mean the loss of two class periods for high school students, limiting their ability to take elective courses or courses required to qualify for Hathaway scholarships.

Recently, the emphasis has been on concurrent enrollment, which involves high school classes specifically designed to college standards and taught by a high school teacher qualified to teach a college-level class.

A student who is enrolled in such a class receives credit toward high school graduation as well as college credit.  This gives him a head start toward a degree and eliminates the cost of earning those credits in college.

As we reported this week, Northwest College has been working with area high schools to provide concurrent enrollment classes. As a result, Powell High School students have had access to 11 concurrent enrollment classes this year and more are scheduled to be available next school year.

Still, some local legislators are concerned that the college is moving too slowly in establishing such courses.

From NWC’s point of view, though, there are a few sticking points with concurrent enrollment. The community colleges want to make certain that a class taught at the high school is of college quality, and a high school may not have a teacher qualified to teach a college level class. Wyoming’s community colleges currently are working to address that concern by providing a path for high school teachers to meet college standards, and it may become less of an issue in the future.

Another concern is that college credits earned through concurrent enrollment may not be recognized by some colleges and universities. A student who continues his education in Wyoming should be all right, but if he chooses to go outside the state, he may find that a college, philosophically or by policy, won’t recognize credits he has earned. The issue can sometimes be resolved by working with an individual college, but it may never disappear entirely.

Higher education is a worthy goal, and concurrent enrollment certainly can help ease a high school student’s path toward that goal. Such classes might also help a student uncertain about his future to decide whether he wants to go to college or take a different path with his life by way of the military or a jobs program.

It is important, however, that such courses actually provide a college-level experience that will be accepted by as many colleges as possible.

Because of those benefits and concerns, Northwest College is to be commended for working to establish those opportunities for area high school students, and for taking the time necessary to ensure their quality.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link February 12, 2012 9:51 am posted by Really?

    I have very strong feelings about this.
    1. All instructors should meet a minimum education standard to teach at the college level.
    2. Why should students who take the concurrent classes remain at NWC after high school if they complete their core classes at the high school's concurrent classes?
    3. It's Pandora's box. Open it and the college will not be the good residential campus it is now, but a pre-university (or high school) online academy. Which in effect aligns with the 'Facebook generation,' no face-to-face contact with the outside world or civil discourse with anyone who disagrees with your own politics or religion.
    Are the high schools so ill-equipped to teach their brightest students that they must hand them over to the college?
    Do the community colleges really need those high school students to ensure that they continue to expand their enrollments?
    My 2¢.

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