The Georgia State Capitol is seen from the Wild Hog Supper, the kickoff dinner for the 2019 Georgia legislative session, at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot in Atlanta, Ga., on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2018. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Photo: Casey Sykes/Casey Sykes
Photo: Casey Sykes/Casey Sykes

Opinion: Don’t limit dual enrollment. It’s flourishing in our Fulton high school.

As parents are learning about the effort in the Legislature to limit dual enrollment, they are raising concerns, including Fulton County parent Jason Warner.

Warner is a father of four and active community member. An IT communications professional, Warner serves as the PTA president at Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn.

The school has a thriving dual enrollment program that would be hurt by House Bill 444, according to Warner. 

By Jason L. Warner

“The purpose of the Dual Enrollment program is to promote and increase access to postsecondary educational opportunities for Georgia high school students while increasing high school graduation rates, preparing a skilled workforce, and decreasing time and cost to postsecondary credential completion.”

This is how Georgia House Bill 444 opens, yet the legislation goes on to propose limiting the number of hours and who can participate in dual enrollment. 

How do you both “promote and increase” and, at the same time, cap and limit? 

Now, Georgia’s dual enrollment program allows for all academically eligible students to participate, with many students finishing high school with a high school diploma as well as an associate’s degree. 

In an effort to reduce the increasing costs of the popular program, the bill would cap credits at 30 hours and require students to pay for any hours over 30, or charge hours over 30 to the student’s HOPE Scholarship eligibility.

Additionally, HB 444 would limit the program to 11th and 12th graders, while the current program is open to all high school students. Again, how do you “promote and increase” access by placing a cap, and limiting access to educational opportunities? This simple answer is, you can’t do both.

Georgia has a goal of attracting the best and brightest. This is a state that is home to a number of headquarters to Fortune 500 companies. In terms of economic development, companies invest in an area where there is a highly educated workforce. If we want the best of the best, then why would we attempt to limit access for our students to become their best selves? 

Langston Hughes High School PTA President Jason Warner

With the cost of college is a top priority in every national election, why would elected officials introduce legislation that would roll back an effective program that is making college affordable for thousands of students across Georgia? 

Langston Hughes High in South Fulton County has nearly 180 students in dual enrollment. Each day four school buses transport a majority of these students to Georgia Military College, Fairburn campus. Many of these students are on track to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. HB 444 will significantly impact the ability to achieve this milestone. 

Not only does Langston Hughes have close to 180 students dual enrolled, nearly half made the President’s and Dean’s List this past semester. This is just one of the many success stories that have come from the program. 

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average annual cost of a public four-year college/university is nearly $25,000 and rising. Participating in the dual enrollment program cuts this cost in half, or at least by a third for many students. If we want to tackle this education crisis, we must continue to fund and expand initiatives like dual enrollment, and not cap or limit access. 

Some proponents of the bill are urging students to choose the Advanced Placement option over a currently expanded dual enrollment. The answer should not be either/or; the goal should be better understanding the pros/cons of each. 

AP is a rigorous course in high schools. Students take these classes in a traditional high school classroom, and have to score a 3 or higher on a tough final exam to be eligible for college credit. (AP Exams are scored on a scale of 1-5.) Even if teens are exceptional students and make perfect grades in the classroom, if they don’t test well and fail to score a 3 or better, they won’t be eligible for college credit. 

Through dual enrollment, students take college courses and receive both high school and college credits for the course. The courses are led by a college professor and generally taken on a college campus. Unlike AP classes, students in dual enrollment program don’t have to worry about a specific score on a final exit exam because a passing cumulative grade in the course will count as the high school grade, as well as a college grade. 

What option is better? Individual circumstances will dictate the best option. Maturity, access to AP teachers, transportation to the college/university, and parental involvement are all critical components to choosing the best option for your scholar. 

It comes a point that we must ask ourselves if our goal in Georgia is to find solutions or create new problems. An investment in our children’s success is an investment in our ultimate success. 

It is time we stop pretending to do the right thing and actually do the right thing. Let me repeat what House Bill 444 says: “The purpose of the Dual Enrollment program is to promote and increase access to postsecondary educational opportunities for Georgia high school students while increasing high school graduation rates, preparing a skilled workforce, and decreasing time and cost to postsecondary credential completion.” 

If this is the goal, let’s not cap or limit access. If anything, we need to expand access. I urge lawmakers to defeat HB 444.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.