Committee approves bill seeking to cut Georgia dual enrollment costs

A Georgia Senate committee voted Thursday afternoon in favor of a plan aimed at reducing costs for the state’s popular, but increasingly expensive, program that pays for high school students to take college courses.

The Higher Education committee voted 7-2 to send House Bill 444 to the entire Senate for approval.

The legislation would restrict students to a total of 30 college credit hours, and would limit the dual enrollment program to only 11th and 12th grade students, with few exceptions. Students can currently take up to 15 credit hours a semester.

Another major change is students who withdraw from two courses would be dropped from the dual enrollment program unless they get special approval.

The changes, if approved by lawmakers, would not take effect until July. The bill has exemptions for students currently in the program.

Lawmakers have been worried about costs for the dual enrollment program as more students take courses on college campuses. A 2018 state audit found general fund spending for the dual enrollment program increased by more than 325% over the prior five years. The 2019 fiscal year budget was about $105 million.

The senators who voted against the bill, Sally Harrell and Nan Orrock, told the committee Thursday the larger issue is rising college costs. The bill proponents say the changes are needed to control costs and to help students make better decisions about course selection.