A Guest Post by: Gail Kappenman
Local technical and state colleges work independently of, and often in conjunction with, area high schools to provide dual-credit programs for juniors and seniors. The programs allow students to earn high school and college credits simultaneously, saving money and giving students the feel of real college classes. Homeschoolers are welcome to participate in such programs. Dual-credit programs are great for busy homeschoolers as classes are offered both in local high schools and on local college campuses, thus offering students and parents flexibility with which to coordinate additional classes or work responsibilities.
Homeschool students have the opportunity to become familiar with college class work in a small group setting, usually ten to thirty students to a class. They listen to lectures, take notes, do lab work, and take class tests. Being college-ready is important for homeschoolers. By taking dual courses, homeschool students may successfully avoid a long adjustment period during their first semester in college.
Most dual-credit courses are transferable to in-state public colleges; many are transferable to colleges and universities across the country. A few private colleges now accept dual credits as well. Students should simply contact the college(s) they are considering and ask which dual credits will be accepted.
Dual-credit classes provide huge financial savings to families. College classes vary in cost from $100–$400 or more per credit hour (or unit). In contrast, dual programs may be free, or nominal fees may be required. If a student can earn 3 to 6 credit hours per semester during his junior and senior years, his family easily could save hundreds of dollars in tuition expenses. Some schools allow students to earn as many as 30 college credits during high school!
While each state has its own rules, general requirements for dual-credit courses usually include being 18 or under, a junior or senior in high school, a good attendance record, and a specified GPA. (Programs available through local high schools also may require the student to take a test, such as the ASSET, CLEP, ACT COMPASS, or PSAT.) To find out which tests your local colleges may use, simply google the name of the college and search within the website for dual-credit eligibility. Many of the tests are comparable in difficulty to the GED. Some states require ACT or SAT scores. Community and technical colleges commonly use the ASSET tests to determine placement in college-level English and math classes. Each college sets its own score parameters. If you are unfamiliar with the test(s) used in your area, conduct an Internet search on each test in question. Some websites allow students to take faux tests online to give them a feel for the test.
Brochures outlining dual-credit class availability and requirements should be available at your local college. If the college is working with area high schools, you should be able to obtain brochures from the high schools as well. A brochure should tell you if there are any class prerequisites, external work requirements, or extra lab requirements. After you have reviewed the material, make a list of questions that you or your child may have about each program of interest. Call the counselor or director, and request an appointment to go in and discuss your options. Many schools will offer to give you a tour of the facility and invite you to observe live classes.
Here are some questions to ask the counselor:
- Are homeschoolers allowed to participate in the dual classes? (Most schools will welcome homeschoolers, although you may have to provide proof of conformity to your state’s homeschooling laws.)
- Can you tour the classrooms, work areas, and labs? (On our tour, we were able to visit many of the different class areas, including car repair, cabinetry, cosmetology, child development, horticulture, and animal science—including the barn and the animals!)
- Are there any specific vaccines or medical requirements? (Vaccinations may be required for working with day-care children or for pre-nursing classes.)
- What type of field trips should be expected? (Some classes may involve state competitions, which require travel and overnight arrangements.)
- Are parents or older siblings allowed to be chaperones on field trips? (If the answer is yes, you might consider volunteering to be a chaperone or sending an older sibling with the class, just for peace of mind.)
- What type of extracurricular work is required (if any) outside the classroom? (Our daughter’s Animal Science class required students to log forty-five non-classroom work hours for the semester, either paid or volunteer. Many of the other classes had no such requirements.)
- What is the typical size of a class? (In our area, the career center classes have ten to thirty students per class, which can be appealing to homeschoolers who might be overwhelmed by a college class with an enrollment of two hundred students.)
- What types of testing assessment (if any) will be used?
- If testing assessments are used, ask the following questions as well:
- When will the test be administered?
- What effect will test results have on the class as a whole?
- If testing assessments are used, ask the following questions as well:
We found the final set of questions to be the most important. For example, South Carolina state regulations state that dual-credit students cannot be in the same class with high school credit-only students. Mixed classes will not qualify to receive dual credit; students will receive the high school credits only, even though some of the students may qualify for both.
In our county, high school career centers offer the dual classes, and the local college gives the students ASSET tests in math, reading, and writing. Students who receive passing ASSET scores are placed in dual-credit classes. Students who do not achieve passing scores are placed in high school credit-only classes. This system works well when there are two classes, two class times, or two teachers. If there is only one teacher or one class time and the class contains students who passed the ASSET test as well as students who did not, the combination violates the guidelines, automatically making the class a high school credit-only class. This situation would be very disappointing to the homeschooler. That is why those last three questions are so important. Make sure you ask how the placement test scores will affect the class and its ability to receive dual credit. If there’s a chance your child’s class might not receive credit because of odd testing guidelines, ask to see what other classes are available.
We had our first experience with dual-credit classes last year, and we learned a lot about their advantages. I was shocked to learn that so many parents have never even heard of this option, yet their tax dollars are funding it! Dual-credit classes provide an incredible opportunity for homeschoolers to save money, get credits, and familiarize themselves with college-level classes. I hope you check into the programs that are available near you—and make sure you are prepared to ask the important questions. The more informed you are, the better the experience your student will have using dual-credit classes.
Examples of State-Accepted Tests
- Central New Mexico: ACT, SAT, Accuplacer
- Texas: TAAS, TAKS, PSAT/NMSQT, PLAN
- Indiana: ACT, SAT
- Missouri: ASSET, ACT, MAP
- South Carolina: COMPASS, ASSET
- Georgia: COMPASS, ASSET
- Michigan: ACT Plan, PSAT, Michigan Merit Exam
- Washington: SAT Reasoning Test, ACT with Writing
- Virginia: COMPASS
- Florida: SAT/SATI, ACT, CPT
Gail Kappenman has been homeschooling since 1991. She is the owner of Kap & Pen Publications, located in Simpsonville, South Carolina. She enjoys reading, writing, editing, gardening, and homeschooling. Visit www.kapandpen.com, where you can find Bible journals, planners, unit studies, and more!
Copyright 2011, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free TOSapps to read the magazine on your Kindle Fire or Apple or Android devices.