Dual Credit Courses Offer Kentucky Higher Ed Opportunities, Challenges

Sep 9, 2016

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While dual credit courses for high school students across the commonwealth offer a head start into the college experience, they put pressure on the amount of money coming into higher education institutions. 

Dual credit courses allow students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously at reduced tuition or no cost.

Murray State University Acting Provost Dr. Renae Duncan oversees the academic side of the program at MSU. She says Governor Matt Bevin's dual credit scholarship program gives more opportunity to students, but a tuition cap of no more than 1/3 of a community college rate means students are taking college classes for less money.

"I say losing with quotation marks. We're losing substantial income from those courses and so it actually makes this a pretty expensive proposition for all of the universities not just Murray State," Duncan said.

Murray State has 700 students enrolled in Racer Academy this fall. Many of the students are taking basic core-level courses either on campus with university students or with accredited teachers in their high schools.

However, Murray State offers a unique experience for students statewide. "Hutson School of Agriculture has worked very closely with agriculture teachers and others across the state to make sure that students could have our agriculture classes while they're still in high school," Duncan said.

Duncan said another challenge facing universities and accrediting agencies is a push to qualify more high school teachers to instruct dual credit programs, Duncan said - maintaining control over certification requirements will ensure a quality experience.

She said she doesn't want to see the experience watered down by people who aren't qualified to teach at the college level: "We have to make sure that any high school teacher that is certified to teach that they really honestly do meet the correct certification requirements."

Duncan said high school teachers involved in Murray State’s program meet requirements at the same level as traditional faculty and adjuncts.

Governor Bevin and Education and Workforce Development Secretary Hal Heiner unveiled the Dual Credit Scholarship Program in June. The state legislature approved $7.5 million dollars for the program through the current and next

Bevin has advocated for high school students to graduate with at least nine postsecondary credit hours.

Heiner has been vocal in support of every high school student taking dual credit course, tweeting in July an article recommending more high school teachers in the program. Duncan said she would not doubt if this issue comes up in the next General Assembly.

According to the Kentucky Department of Education, more than 9,300 students took dual credit courses last academic year.