Posted in Dual Enrollment, High School, Transfer Credit

Dual Enrollment Basics

Member question(s):  How does one go about starting dual enrollment?  I’ve seen posts of homeschoolers as young as 15 who are enrolled in dual credit classes, however, I am still not certain if there is an age limit for them to enroll?


This answer isn’t going to cover all of it, but it will give you the basics and get you pointed in the right direction.

First, let’s define dual enrollment:  it may be called something different in your state, but the general concept is that the student earns dual (double) credit for their work in one course. 

Example:  Your 12th-grade teen signs up at ABC Community College and takes English 101.  As the homeschool parent, you award them high school credit for their work (12th-grade English) and the college awards them college credit (English 101).  It’s double dipping!  2 birds with 1 stone!

Access to Dual Enrollment

There are several “levels” of dual enrollment access, and most of the time it depends on the state you’re homeschooling in. In the most restrictive states, there is no dual enrollment allowed for homeschoolers at all– you need a high school diploma/GED to take college classes. Keep in mind this is a standard college entrance policy, so this isn’t really doing anything wrong, but they are not lowering their admissions and granting access- so in other words, dual enrollment is a privilege being extended to students, allowing them to enroll in advance of meeting regular entrance requirements.  As such, not everyone gets this privilege.

Here are variations of privilege you’ll find as you search the public community college procedures in all 50 states:

  • It’s not allowed for high school students of any type.
  • It’s “allowed” if you’re in public/private school, but not homeschool.
  • It’s allowed for everyone, but you have to pay full tuition (Illinois).
  • It’s allowed, but the state tells you how many credits/courses you can take (Ohio).
  • It’s allowed, and the state provides a tuition waiver for reduced tuition.
  • It’s allowed, and the individual school decides if tuition is reduced. (South Carolina)
  • It’s allowed, and it’s free for all high school students. (Georgia, North Carolina)

Now, once you step outside of public community colleges, you’ll enter into the private school arena, where anything goes.  Private schools almost always charge full price tuition, however, some state programs extend their waivers to be used at private colleges (Ohio) but this is not the norm.  Even in states where dual enrollment has full access and is completely free (North Carolina) you won’t see this benefit extended to private colleges.

Age to Qualify

And yes, you guessed it, it differs greatly.  Most states that extend dual enrollment require the student to be in 11th or 12th grade.  Some exceptions exist, like our friends in Florida who can enter as early as 6th grade!  Expect the college to require a copy of your transcript and some type of test score- whether it’s the ACT, SAT, PSAT, or one of the college’s own tests (Accuplacer, Compass).  Not all states require test scores for entry (North Carolina, for example, only requires test scores for some programs) but it is generally the norm.

In every case, graduating high school ends your dual enrollment eligibility, and you’d switch over to a regular dual enrollment student if you continue at that college.  If you plan to attend a different college, you’d apply there as a regular incoming freshman.

Transfer Student vs Freshman Applicant

The word “transfer” has more than one meaning in college, which confuses the heck out of people, and rightfully so.

Parents want to know if their teen’s dual enrollment credit “will transfer” to a 4-year college later, and the answer is generally “yes.”  That definition of “transfer” is different than the definition of “transfer student.”

First, let’s talk about a transfer student.  A transfer student is a high school graduate that attended another college, accumulated some credit, and then applied to a different college.  While it “feels” like this includes dual enrollment students, (your teen did just graduate, they did attend a college, they did earn some credit, and they are applying to a different college) your high school graduate is not a transfer student as a result of accumulating college credit.  The distinction is when college credit was earned, and in the case of dual enrollment, it was earned pre-high school diploma.  Therefore, your student is not a transfer student.

This is always a hot question because transfer students don’t always have the same access to housing, scholarships, etc. as a freshman applicant.  As such, it’s a lazy answer for me to tell you “so check the college your teen is considering just to be sure.”  The problem with giving that canned answer is it undermines the parent’s confidence in using dual enrollment (which is amazing) and it implies that there are some colleges in both categories, and it’s a coin toss what will happen to their teen.  Let me put that fear to rest.

I would NEVER lie to you and tell you that I’ve looked up every college policy for dual enrollment every year for the past decade, and that and that I’m certain that you’ll never encounter an inconsistency from what I’m telling you- what I will tell you is that I spend a LOT of time digging into this question, and I’ve never found a single college that treats dual enrollment credit as transfer credit.  Not 1.  Ever.  So, while it’s true, that the unicorn may exist, I’ve never seen it.  Thousands of college policies, year after year, I’m still waiting to find an exception.  As such, if YOU find one, I want to know- I need to know! I want the readers to know.


A simple rule of thumb: 

classes taken pre-high school diploma:  dual enrollment

classes taken post-high school diploma:  transfer credit


Finding Dual Enrollment in Your State

Dual enrollment privileges and funding can change from year to year, and I don’t have a good resource list to share with you.  As fast as lists are written, changes occur, and lists are outdated (!)  Furthermore, when you do your own research, it isn’t enough to find out if your state offers dual enrollment, you need to find out if your homeschool student is eligible. Unfortunately, homeschoolers are not always eligible.

When I research dual enrollment, the BEST document that I start with was written by The Education Commission of the States and has a ton of good information.  (Start there)  It’s from 2015, and so it’s 2 academic years old at this point.  If an updated edition becomes available, I’ll post it here.  Here is the page for Alabama.  They have pages for each state:

Alabama
Program Basics
Statewide policy in place Yes
Definition or title of program Dual Enrollment
Where courses provided
  • At high school
  • At postsecondary institution
  • Virtual program
Postsecondary and/or secondary credit earned Both
Students may take developmental/remedial coursework for dual credit No
CTE component Yes. Students at two-year colleges may enroll in academic, career and technical or health science courses.

Local boards may elect to participate in the Early College Enrollment Program (ECEP), a dual enrollment program for career and technical education students in grades 11 and 12.

Students who do not have a minimum “B” average but who have demonstrated ability to benefit as documented by successful completion and placement identification on assessments approved by the department of postsecondary education are limited to pursuing career/technical and health-related courses.

Unique characteristics Private school and homeschool students may also establish dual enrollment agreements with postsecondary institutions.Students in grades 10-12 who do not meet the eligibility requirement of a “B” average in high school courses may be determined eligible to participate in dual enrollment “pending demonstrated ability to benefit as documented by successful completion and placement identification on assessments approved by the department of postsecondary education” (includes ASSET, WorkKeys, CPAT). Such students are limited to pursuing career/technical and health-related courses, and must have “a ‘B’ average in high school courses related to the occupational/technical studies, if applicable, which the student intends to pursue at the postsecondary level and” have an overall 2.5 grade point average.

The state department of education must work with districts with the lowest high school graduation rates to implement dropout prevention interventions. One of the interventions the department may implement is offering full course fee waivers to students eligible for free/reduced lunch who are enrolled in dual credit courses. The department must submit a written report to the legislature on the outcomes of dropout prevention strategies, and any planned modification of school system dropout prevention strategies and activities, based on the data compiled.

Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook State Groups

You should join your state’s group and try to connect with people in your state/community. This is how we can create the best and most up to the minute help for each other.  State groups range from small to large, active to quiet, so the best way to add to the body of knowledge is to invite others who may want to contribute to or benefit from discussing college credit options!  Find Your HS4CC State Group Here

No Dual Enrollment?

If you don’t have access to dual enrollment, you may be able to enroll your teen in a different state’s program.  The New Mexico Community College system is open to 11th and 12th-grade homeschool students, and their courses generally transfer back to your own state.  They are a popular choice since their system is the lowest cost in the country- about $50 per credit for out od state students.

Another popular option is DIY Dual Enrollment, which operates outside the college system entirely.  In this case, the parent provides curriculum and instruction, followed by a standardized exam like CLEP.  I have a lot to say about CLEP vs Dual Enrollment, so I made a short seminar for you on the topic:

 

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