Dual Enrollment – A Great Opportunity, but Not Without Dangers

dsc_3910As a homeschooling mom of 9 (finally finished) who is now the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College I am a huge proponent of dual enrolling!  After all, it makes sense to cover both high school and college material at the same time!  It is an academic BOGO!  And, students who earn college credit in high school have less college to pay for later!

When we host Homeschool Visitation Days at Bryan College, during the Q&A session, a parent will often ask the current Bryan students who were homeschooled the following question: “As a homeschooled student, what was most challenging about coming to college and what would you advise high school students to do to be better prepared?”  The answer is almost always that the students struggle with time constraints, planning, and scheduling.  The advice they give to future students is to either be part of a structured co-op or to dual enroll before coming to college!

alexis-brown-85793When our family lived in Florida and homeschooled students were allowed to dual enroll at the local community college (this was years ago), my oldest two daughters asked to take classes on campus.  I had my concerns (I had been a student on that same campus years earlier), but I thought if I was careful with my choices it would be okay.  So I signed them up for Computer and Spanish classes.  I also made sure my friend signed her boys up for the same classes so that my daughters would have “body guards.”  To be honest, nothing terrible happened, but the Spanish professor did take the class to a bar so that the students could hear the bartender speak in his native language and a boy brought in his Playboy Calendar during show and tell.  That was bothersome and it would have concerned me more had it been my sons in that class rather than my daughters.

A few years later one of our sons wanted to dual enroll and we were convinced he was not ready to be in that environment.  As it turned out, for one reason after another, he was not able to take dual enrolled classes until 3 semesters later and, by then, he was so busy with Civil Air Patrol that he ended up taking classes at night at a satellite campus with a room full of older students.

marc-wieland-150252Homeschooling parents are often criticized for being helicopter parents, holding onto that leash far too long.  On the other hand, there are parents who boot their children out of the house at a certain age regardless of the child’s maturity level, the environment, or the college.  We want to raise our children so that they can successfully live independent of us, whether that is at age 16, 18 or older.  Dual enrollment is a great choice for many, but not necessarily for every high school student.

Because I have been homeschooling for so many years, I have many friends who finished their journey far sooner than I did and an often heard regret by many is allowing their high school students to take classes on campus at a secular college during the high school years.  Whether we have the same religious perspectives, or not, most of you would probably agree that the language, sexual conduct, and alcohol and drug use on college campuses is of concern to many.  I have one friend whose son was asked to spend the night with a girl the day he met her.  Before you get all hot and bothered because you believe that your child would never be negatively persuaded by his/her peers, you could be wrong, and you might end up being one of those parents having regrets.  Truth be told, this should be taken on a case-by-case basis.  There are no clear guidelines to determine whether a child is ready for this or not.  Back in Florida where I previously lived, the homeschool students band together, share information on which professors to avoid and which to pursue and, for the most part, create a safe-environment among themselves.  We do not have to throw out the baby with the bath water, but we do need to take steps to ensure our student’s well-being.

There are definitely precautions a parent will want to take when sending a teen to a secular college campus as a high school student.  Sometimes on-line classes may be preferable to on-campus classes because the negative peer influence is removed (for the most part).  Taking classes at satellite locations or at night diminishes the number of students whose goal is to party more than to receive an education.  If, like me, you are a Christian and having classes taught from a biblical worldview is important to you, then research those options.  My youngest boys dual enrolled at Bryan College, both on-line and on-campus.  When they were on-campus they blended in with the rest of the students and oftentimes no one was even aware they were high school students.

element5-digital-352048In some cases your high school/college GPA from DE courses does not follow you to college unless you go to the college where you took the DE classes.  If your child takes classes at the local community college as a DE student and then attends another school after graduating high school, more-than-likely his GPA would start fresh the first semester even though his college credits transfer.  With my youngest two sons, because they took DE classes at Bryan and now attend Bryan, the GPA followed them and, in their situations, that was a good thing because they had high GPAs. For high school students who have poor GPAs with their DE credits, this may be a blessing if they are starting over (GPA-wise) at the college they attend.

Another question often asked is whether DE credits will transfer to another school.  The answer to this question is, “It depends!”  It depends on the school the student attends.  It depends on the major the student is pursuing.  There are some colleges that accept very little credit from other colleges and there are some that will transfer almost any college credit that a student has earned. Generally, if the high school student has earned an AA, then they can take the AA with them to almost any college.  Using words like “generally” and “usually” and “almost any college” are necessary because there are no firm, set-in-stone mandates. For these reasons I would suggest that if your students are going to dual enroll that they take basic classes that may likely be accepted at many colleges. If your student knows which college he/she plans to attend, then find out from that college which DE classes will transfer.  The same is true of AP classes and CLEP credits.  There are no across-the-board answers that apply to this discussion.

Two more bonus suggestions and then some advice from a friend. Suggestion #1:  Your homeschooled students can graduate any time of the year so if there are summer DE classes your students would like to take before graduating high school, they can take those classes in the summer and graduate high school in August! Suggestion #2:  Taking college math classes while in high school has the added benefit of improving the math scores on the college entrance exams (assuming the student does well in the class).  Not only are the students completing college math credits, but their raised test scores could very well earn additional scholarships!

Here are some of the possible outcomes to dual enrollment experiences:

  1. Positive outcome: A great experience is enjoyed and both high school and college credits are earned at the same time.
  2. Positive outcome: Money is saved and students earn their degrees much faster by completing college credits during high school.
  3. Positive outcome: Some states offer scholarships related to dual enrollment credits earned so there is potential for additional college funds to be earned.
  4. Negative outcome: Some students are eager to take classes, but they do not take them seriously and as a result they do not make the grades necessary to continue with the process. (In some states the DE grants are tied to GPAs earned.) They are removed from the program.
  5. Negative outcome: Some students become so preoccupied with the social activities that they lose site of the goal and play away their time on campus, failing classes.
  6. Negative outcome: Some students’ values and beliefs totally change when they are presented with beliefs alternative to their parents. (Young adults should be free to decide what they believe in regard to the great questions of life, but some students are not ready to reasonably and logically discuss some of these deeper issues until they are older.)
  7. Negative outcome: Some students, not knowing how to handle the freedom they have been given in this setting, become rude, crude and disobedient to their parents. They obtain a superior attitude and life at home is less than pleasant.

Advice from a friend:  When approaching colleges about their dual enrollment policies, be polite because dual enrollment laws are often broad and vague. Each college can interpret them as they wish. Rules will change year-to-year so be flexible, polite, and grateful. 

Make sure your child stays rooted at home and in a peer community. They are at the age where they are hungry for community and if they don’t have it at home they will find it where it’s convenient. It is a battle worth fighting, but you have to give them something. 

Be careful just gathering credits. Know where your child is going from here and check in with that destination to make sure you are following their recommendations. Find people who have walked similar (degree wise) paths recently. Information from when their son majored in “x” at “y” is usually irrelevant if it has been more than three years. That is generally true of all things college. It changes year to year.           — Cathy, from Florida

There you have it.  The good, the bad, and the ugly of all things dual enrollment.  To dual enroll on-line or on campus at Bryan College one can apply on-line, pay a small application fee, and provide a transcript showing the completion of the sophomore year with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.  If a DE student wants to take math classes at Bryan then he/she must have scored a 22 on the ACT (or comparable on the SAT or CLT).  Bryan offers on-line classes during the fall, spring and twice during the summer (six week sessions). Technically, a dual enrolled student could take classes through Bryan College during 10 semesters before graduating high school. For more information go to www.bryan.edu/de.  If you have not downloaded the free e resource I put together to help you plan the high school years, it is available here:  www.bryan.edu/ebook




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