Other Opinions

Ensuring a viable Valley means letting high school students take college courses

Fresno City College has dual enrollment program set up with Fresno Unified.
Fresno City College has dual enrollment program set up with Fresno Unified. Fresno Bee file

One of the strongest educational tools we have to increase student interest in school and increase graduation rates while reducing the cost of a college education is “dual enrollment.”

Dual enrollment is a term we use in education that leverages partnerships between high school and community colleges to create a seamless pathway from high school to college. Once a partnership is formed, such as the one the Fresno Unified School District trustees approved unanimously with Fresno City College recently, high school students are able to complete college courses while still attending high school. This allows high school students to take courses in a specific area of career interest and gives them a head start to get a job, whether they choose career and technical education courses or college transfer classes in general education.

Most dual enrollment programs consist of college-level courses offered on a high school campus taught by qualified high school faculty or college professors. Regardless of the delivery mode, at a high school or on a college campus, dual enrollment is an investment in our youth yielding a high return. Viable research has demonstrated that dual enrollment students are much more likely to complete high school, enter college, persist and graduate career ready.

This is more important than ever in our Valley where our dropout rates are 7 percent higher and where 39 percent of our students are first-generation college attendees. There has been a misconception that dual enrollment programs are only available for advanced placement honor students. This is not true. In fact, dual enrollment benefits all students from diverse backgrounds, from continuation high school students to honor students, and has been shown to have an especially strong impact on first-generation college-goers. Yet, sadly, statistics indicate the students who would benefit the most from dual enrollment are some of the least likely to take advantage of it.

Dr. Carole Goldsmith, president of Fresno City College. FCC

We need to change that! To ensure a vibrant future for our Valley, it is my strong belief that California Community Colleges must make a greater investment in dual enrollment initiatives.

Here are just a few of the benefits we’d see if we did:

▪ The cost of a college education would be less because dual enrollment college courses are free of charge: no tuition fees or textbook costs are charged to students. With the increasing cost for college education, dual enrollment is an effective strategy for all families to employ to reduce the cost of a four-year degree.

▪ Students would complete their degrees sooner. We all have heard the reports about students who go to a two-year college for six years. On average, FCC’s dual enrollment Design Science Middle College High School Students graduate high school with more than 50 college units, just ten units short of an associate degree.

▪ We’d ensure we have enough educated workers. The Public Policy Institute of California recently projected that by 2030, 38 percent of jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, population and education trends suggest only 33 percent of working-age adults in California will have bachelor’s degrees by 2030 — a shortfall of 1.1 million graduates. Dual enrollment is a promising approach that will lead to more graduates.

▪ We’d increase college attainment and help close achievement gaps. Research has shown students who participate in dual enrollment programs are more likely to graduate high school, enter college, complete a degree and/or transfer.

▪ Dual enrollment builds stronger partnerships between K-12 and community colleges. All students attending high school should have access to college and career access pathways provided by their local community college.

The first step to a greater investment in dual enrollment is to support the passage of Assembly Bill 30 authored by Assemblyman Christopher Holden and co-authored by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno. AB 30 protects dual enrollment from expiring and provides greater certainty to existing partnerships statewide by simplifying the student application process and streamlining partnerships between districts.

Please join me in supporting AB 30 and in making a greater investment in dual enrollment to ensure we’re able to meet the needs of our students and we have a viable Valley for generations to come.

Dr. Carole Goldsmith is president of Fresno City College and can be reached at carole.goldsmith@fresnocitycollege.edu.