A task force looking for ways to increase the number of Louisiana high school students earning college credit says the state should launch a grant program supporting dual enrollment around the state.
The Louisiana Dual Enrollment Framework Task Force’s draft interim report does not contain an estimate of how much the grants would cost. The final report is due Oct. 1.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposal to make dual enrollment available for free to all juniors and seniors in public schools died amid concerns about how to pay for it. Lawmakers created the task force instead.
The state boards that oversee K-12 and higher education set a goal in December that by 2029 every graduating senior will have earned college credit and/or an industry certification. The current $17.4 million set aside for dual enrollment courses is not enough to reach that goal, officials say.
“A reliable funding stream or combination of funding sources [is needed] to support the state’s vision of universal access to dual enrollment,” the task force’s draft report says. “This requires that existing state and federal funding streams be utilized to their full extent to ensure equitable participation in dual enrollment.”
About 23.5 percent of Louisiana public high school juniors and seniors were enrolled in dual enrollment courses during the 2017-2018 school year, the most recent year for which the information was available. Participation ranged from 45.5 percent in Natchitoches Parish to 5.3 percent in St. Helena.
Along with the geographic disparities, students enrolled in college coursework were more likely to be white and less likely to be poor than public school students overall. Task force members say dual enrollment grants could be used to support equity and access in areas of high need. In the interim report, task force members call for each high school student to be able to enroll in at least four dual enrollment courses without paying tuition or fees.
Officials say dual enrollment tuition and fees charged by colleges and universities to students or schools vary widely, from $35 to $170 per credit hour. In its interim report, the task force directs the state Department of Education to “compile a comprehensive funding report on dual enrollment to better understand the landscape of dual enrollment finance in Louisiana and determine the best way to fund future efforts.”
The number of Louisiana public, private or homeschooled students enrolled in a college course went from less than 20,000 in 2008-2009 to almost 32,000 in 2015-2016, according to the report. The number stayed about the same for three years before dropping to 29,335 last year.