The following editorial originally appeared in the Seattle Times:
High school students who enroll in courses that also give them college credit are more likely to graduate and successfully complete college courses.
Classes save students time and money, when they are able to participate. State lawmakers should remove costs that create financial barriers for low-income students. This would help eliminate disparities in enrollment.
High school students in Washington can earn concurrent college and high school credits in several different programs. They can take courses on college campuses through Running Start, in their own school buildings through College in the High School, or take dual credit vocational and technical training courses. They can also take the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International exams.
These dual credit options build student confidence and help them see themselves as a college subject. But education is not equal across demographic groups.
Nearly 62% of high school students in the state took at least one double-credit course in the 2020 school year, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education. But less than 42 percent of Native American and Alaskan high school students enrolled in such a class that year. Black, Latino, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students, learners of English, and from low-income households were also under-represented. These spreads have persisted even as overall double-credit listings have increased in recent years.
Part of the problem is the cost. College courses in high school can cost up to $ 66 per credit. Running Start students must pay for books, fees, and transportation. There is an exam fee for students who earn credits per exam. While low-income students qualify for relief, Washington families pay a combined $ 54-69 million per year for duplicate enrollments in all programs, according to estimates by the Washington Student Achievement Council.
But, as Superintendent of Public Education Chris Reykdal says, advanced courses for eligible high school students should be part of basic education.
âIf these were students taking advanced courses in high school, we would never be able to charge them for a book,â he said.
In recent years, state lawmakers have allocated just under $ 5 million per year to reduce the costs of dual credit courses, the bulk of which is spent on improving equitable access to dual credit. But they should simplify the process by making classes free, especially for low-income and under-represented students.
âIt’s one thing to say, ‘There’s no charge, come on,’â Reykdal said. âIt’s another thing to say, ‘Come on and we’ll see what we can do for you.’ “
Lawmakers can take the first step towards greater inclusion by eliminating costs and fees from the program.