Guest Opinions

With good advisers, dual-credit program is helping Idaho kids go beyond high school

Nampa High School juniors Joshua Debban, right, and McKenna Parsons analyze documents in an advanced-placement U.S. history class in December.
Nampa High School juniors Joshua Debban, right, and McKenna Parsons analyze documents in an advanced-placement U.S. history class in December.

Idaho students who attend public school in grades seven to 12 are provided a great opportunity when it comes to pursuing postsecondary education. The Statesman published an article July 18 that talked about steps state officials are considering to make sure that classes students take under the dual-credit program work well for both students and state taxpayers. But I want to note the significant steps already in place to address those concerns.

A little background: The Idaho Legislature has set aside $4,125 for students to pursue overload courses (high school courses that must be above and beyond the regular day), Dual Credit courses, Advanced Placement exams and Career Technical Education (CTE) exams. These options provide opportunities for students to plan their future and make preparations for postsecondary schooling whether they attend a two-year, four-year or technical education.

The State Board Office, the Department of Education, all Idaho colleges and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy have made great strides in providing a framework for students interested in obtaining college credit and/or certificates while still in high school. During the 2015-2017 school years, an extensive push in professional development took place in order to educate counselors and academic advisers to better advise students grade seven to 12.

In addition, steps were taken to make sure that the credits taken in high school would be accepted by Idaho schools, as intended. In 2016-2017, College of Western Idaho also introduced the General Education Matriculation Certification, also known as GEM, which guarantees that any student who completes this certification while in high school would be exempt from general education requirements if attending one of the Idaho public colleges.

This certification is 36 credits, so a student who achieves this will save many hours and approximately $3,600 at College of Western Idaho and more than $6,000 at Boise State University in postsecondary schooling. This can be a huge savings to students and parents alike. Of course, it is very important high school students get advising either from the school district or a college dual-credit coordinator to verify specific general education courses for a particular major. In addition, many out-of-state colleges have transfer information on their website so students and parents can verify the validity of taking a high school dual-credit class in respect to a student’s expected degree program.

The Idaho Legislature set aside $4,125 for students in seventh through 12th grade that would apply to payment for dual-credit classes, and other “Advanced Opportunity” options. Not only can an Idaho student obtain a GEM certificate while still in high school, but also an associate’s degree. These advanced opportunity funds have also been utilized by students to take advantage of the Spanish-speaking initiative through CWI. This initiative encourages Spanish-speaking students to earn college credits simply by taking the College Level Examination Program test.

A large percentage of the students who participated in this program received eight to 16 college credits. The CLEP test assesses college-level knowledge in 36 subject areas and provides a mechanism for earning college credits without taking the course. These students now feel some type of college is possible after high school.

Idaho’s “Go On” rate is among the lowest in the United States. Students and parents need knowledge of all programs and opportunities in order to make the best decisions about postsecondary options. Students taking dual-credit courses need to meet with a high school or college adviser to find the best fit for them.

Research does show that a student who participates in dual-credit courses in high school is much more likely to complete some form of post high school training. The dual-credit participation rate among Idaho students has doubled in the last two years. This program does have an excellent chance of helping more students become educated and skilled beyond high school.

Kathy Purin is college/career coordinator at Kuna High School.