Georgia Senate passes dual enrollment changes

The Georgia Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would reduce how many college courses high school students can take in a dual enrollment program that is paid for by state funding.

House Bill 444 would restrict students to a total of 30 college credit hours, and would mainly limit courses to 11th and 12th grade students, with some exceptions. Currently, they can take up to 15 credit hours a semester.

Students who want to take more than 30 credit hours would have to pay for additional classes. The legislation has a grandfather clause for current dual enrollment students, but there are credit hour restrictions for some students.

The bill passed by a 34-18 margin.

Proponents say the legislation is needed to reduce the rising costs of the state's dual enrollment program, once known as Move On When Ready, which began in 1992. 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.

Enrollment has nearly doubled in a recent four-year stretch, from about 27,000 students in fiscal year 2016 to nearly 52,000 students in fiscal year 2019, state records show. Georgia’s fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30.

“We put guard rails on the program to save it for generations to come,” said Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough.

The bill’s critics questioned whether a thorough analysis was done to determine program costs. They also raised concerns that it would discourage some lower-income students from seeking a college degree since they may have to pay for some dual enrollment courses.

“I’m not satisfied if we did our job (researching the bill),” said Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta.

The bill will now go to the state’s House of Representatives for a vote.

Clarification: This story has been updated to include that the legislation has credit hour restrictions for some students currently in the dual enrollment program.