What Parents and a Student Have to Say
Our summer series will end next week. Obviously, it is important for us to hear from those who have “lived” dual enrollment.
The first parent, who has requested to remain anonymous, contacted me about two weeks into the series. She told me she and her son have been through the ringer this summer dealing with transfer credits. We agreed to wait until they got things figured out, which finally happened within the past two weeks. So here’s more about “the ringer.”
This parent’s son earned 42 dual enrollment hours while in high school. He was accepted into A & M two years ago under the A&M/Blinn Team. After successfully completing two years in this program, he applied to the highly acclaimed Mays Business School at A & M. This is where “the ringer” began. Only a few of his dual enrollment credits applied toward his declared major. After countless phone calls, mega doses of frustration, and the temptation to throw in the towel, this parent and her son were able to work things out; however, the school still did not accept most of his dual enrollment credits. I told her I can only imagine what happens to students who don’t have parents willing or able to negotiate the system.
This parent’s advice to parents and students considering dual enrollment courses:
1) Only take core classes for dual enrollment credit as the others are unlikely to transfer.
2) Restructure the dual enrollment informational sessions for parents that are held at our high schools so they provide much more accurate and straightforward information. For example, despite the promise of reducing the time spent in college, her son must still attend four years for his major. Parents should also know which credits are guaranteed to transfer and which are not, she said.
The second parent I heard from was one of my former assistant principals at McHi, Carlos Hernandez. Only half of his son’s dual enrollment credits transferred to St. Edward’s, and the same thing happened to his nephew when he enrolled at Texas A & M. Thus, Carlos said, the value of their associate’s degree was essentially diminished. Carlos sees the financial savings for parents and students as the greatest benefit of dual enrollment credit. The credits that did transfer created that savings. When asked how he would improve the system, Carlos replied, “School officials (especially counselors) need to constantly advise students that their GPA will stick with them.”
The third parent has a daughter currently in college. This parent is also a local elementary school principal. This parent insisted that her daughter take dual enrollment and AP courses in high school so she would be better prepared when she went to college, to save money, and to help her daughter start college “ahead of the game.” Meanwhile, her best friend took all college prep classes and avoided dual enrollment and AP courses because she had two older siblings and her mom learned through their experiences how to navigate the GPA game. The greatest shock for the parent who contacted me was that the friend’s decision to take CP classes resulted in a higher GPA and a full-ride scholarship. Although the parent who contacted me saved a bit of money from the courses her daughter does not have to take, a full-ride scholarship would have helped even more.
(I realized as I read this parent’s comments that I have never heard if dual enrollment courses are weighted like AP classes are, giving students extra points toward their GPA for taking the more difficult courses. I will ask about this. It has always troubled me when parents advise their children to take the less demanding courses—when they are fully capable of taking the more difficult courses---solely to have a higher GPA. There is something wrong with a system that makes this possible, in my opinion.)
Finally, I heard from a parent who has a son in college who took dual enrollment courses while in high school and a daughter currently enrolled in dual enrollment courses. Her son said two benefits of dual enrollment courses are the financial savings and that it “looks great on college applications.” He, too, said the biggest problem is definitely the number of credits that do not transfer.
The daughter fell through the dual enrollment cracks based on a single form---“the S form.” She understood she was only to sign the form if she was going to attend dual enrollment courses at South Texas College. Since she was taking these courses on her high school campus, she did not sign the form. Her mother, a local teacher, was unaware of this form and did not find out about the error until the deadline for form submission had passed. Thus, despite her daughter’s excellent grades in her dual enrollment courses, she cannot earn the college credits for them.
This parent’s additional concern is that a coworker who is teaching a dual enrollment course said if every student in her class does not pass—regardless of absences, work turned in, test grades, etc.—she is held accountable by the institution of higher learning rather than the students being held accountable. In my book, if a teacher is expected to pass students who did not earn the grade, the value of all of the students’ grades is greatly reduced and “rigor” is just a word with no meaning.
This series has given us so much to think about. Next week, it’s time to wrap it up and discuss what can be done to fine-tune the system.
Until next week…….
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and works for a McAllen-based alternative certification program. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.