Posted in HS4CC

Not Ready Academically: CE Classes

As I read the HS4CC 2022 Annual Parent’s Survey, I was surprised that so many parents listed “not ready academically” among their reasons for not adding college credit into their homeschool program. I think that most parents over-estimate where their kids need to be before jumping in – there are all types of college credit options for kids of every level. In today’s post, I want to highlight one strategy I used with my youngest who was not ready academically but wanted to take classes.

Academic readiness is a real concern- especially when we talk about the most popular and best college credit option we have: dual enrollment. Dual enrollment leaves a paper trail, which is to say that bad grades can’t be hidden. If your teen fails a dual enrollment course, there are consequences. Even when we leave them off of a high school transcript, the college’s record is forever. I’m totally aware of this risk, but Continuing Education courses (still taken at a college) are 100% risk-free!

Thousands of parents in this community will tell you that starting is the hardest part. Once your teen experiences a small success, each credit after that comes a bit easier. Each of my 4 sons have all taken CE classes at some point – either in high school or after. I’ve found so many exciting opportunities in this part of the college catalog that I really want to make sure everyone knows about it!

Continuing Education / Adult Education

If your teen is age 16 or older, but you’re not confident in their ability to do a college credit class, I’d love for you to consider a non-credit option first. While a small number of classes may require the student to be older (age 21 for a wine class or age 18 for a truck driving class) the typical age of eligibility is 16.

I recall taking 3 “college” classes in 1987 when I was in high school! These were not for college credit, but I desperately wanted to study culinary arts, and had already exhausted my high school’s Home Ec. sequence. I took courses in Chocolate, Cake Decorating, and Wok Cooking – loved it! Those experiences helped me decide to attend The Culinary Institute of America after high school.

Start local. Check out your college’s continuing education (CE) catalog. Your college may call these courses “adult education” or “professional development” but no matter what title they use, they all refer to college courses offered through a college that are NOT worth college credit. CE courses will always be self-pay, and are not eligible for financial aid even when your student has graduated from high school. Even without college credit, you’ll still get to award high school credit! It’s also possible to earn certificates of completion or even licensure for some classes, so if that’s the case, be sure to have your teen include their work on their resume.

While some CE courses may be available online (especially since COVID) most of these are in person and on campus. Experiencing a college class this way may demystify and reduce a feeling of intimidation common among some students. I also want to give kudos to the teachers who teach CE courses. These are usually community members who are passionate about the topic and are being paid a very small amount based on enrollment. I have (and still do) teach CE courses on occasion, so these are not your jaded burnt out professors- these are passionate and excited people with something to share!

CE courses are rarely graded, rarely have attendance requirements, rarely have tests or homework, and are always a low-risk opportunity for your teen to try a class. The college will keep a record, but it will be a separate document from your teen’s official college “transcript” that will house all graded college credit attempted. CE transcripts are not forwarded to colleges and taking a CE class does not require disclosure on future college applications.

A son of mine who wasn’t academically eligible for our college’s dual enrollment welding program (required an English/Math placement test) was instead eligible to take the college’s non-credit CE welding program in 10th grade! He took 5 welding classes this way before starting 11th grade (11th grade doesn’t require a placement test) and completed hundreds of hours of practice in a small class without grades or tests. When he started his “real” dual enrollment welding classes, his skill (and confidence) was so strong that he easily earned solid A’s in all his welding classes! Academics do not come easily for this son, but we continue to work on that together in our homeschool. This strategy allowed me to go around the placement test and get him into a program that I knew he’d be successful in. At the end of this semester he’ll have 43 college credits. (He will have to complete several general education courses, but he’ll complete those through Arizona State University Universal Learner because they offer him grade protection – you don’t pay if you don’t like your grade. It’s an amazing option. See the blog posts under this post for more information.)

Examples of CE classes you might find at your local college:

  • Spanish, French, German, Italian, etc.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Real Estate License Preparation
  • Cake Decorating, Cooking, Bread Baking
  • Small Business / Entrepreneurship
  • Excel, Word, Microsoft Skills
  • CompTIA, A+, Network +, IT Certification
  • Automotive Technology
  • Guitar, Piano, Choir
  • Accounting, Bookkeeping, QuickBooks
  • Carpentry / Woodcraft
  • Welding / Fabrication / Blacksmith
  • AutoCAD
  • Sewing, Advanced Sewing
  • Certified Floral Arranger
  • Certified Personal Trainer
  • Nutrition, Healthy Cooking, Wellness
  • Painting, Watercolor, Acrylic
  • Golf, Tennis, Weight Lifting, Yoga

More about ASU UL and their “grade protection” classes

Accuplacer Exam: Will your teen have to take it?

Accuplacer is the brand name of a very widely used college placement test. Community colleges often use this exam to assess an incoming student’s ability to do “college level” work. It…


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit