What is Concurrent Enrollment?

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Concurrent enrollment, more commonly known as dual enrollment, refers to programs where students are enrolled in two schools simultaneously. Many dual enrollment programs involve high school students simultaneously taking college classes, most often at a local community college. Others are specially developed programs where students take classes to receive both high school and college credit from the same class at the same time.

Many high schools advertise and offer dual enrollment programs. According to the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Programs (NACEP), they can be a low-cost way for students to gain college credit, allowing them to enroll in college with sophomore or junior status.

Will Concurrent Enrollment Guarantee College Acceptance? 

It’s inconclusive as to whether dual enrollment will help students get into college. NBC News says that it can go either way: The litmus test should be whether the student is gaining something valuable from the class and what the actual class is like. Just because a class says that it’s college level doesn’t necessarily mean it will be more challenging.

However, what’s important to consider is whether concurrent enrollment will help save families money and improve overall accessibility to colleges.

In the 2013 State of the Union, President Obama announced that he hoped dual enrollment would help more students receive a college degree, along with his plan to make more colleges free.

A few years later, how has concurrent enrollment helped in increasing accessibility to college? According to NACEP, the theory is that if your child enters college already having earned college credit, then they will take less time to graduate—and thus they pay for less college.

According to Knowledge @ Wharton High School, this holds true for student Abby Parnell. When her private high school got rid of AP credits, Parnell switched to an online school that would offer her college credit. While the program cost her $5,000, the credits she earned granted her sophomore status, which will allow her to save up to $40,000 in tuition fees.

However, while there is potential for future savings with concurrent enrollment, not all classes will put you in a better position when entering college. It can be difficult to compare dual enrollment programs, and it can be incredibly hard to tell whether the courses are actually as difficult as college courses.

According to the St. Louis Post, their program has a potential solution: At St. Louis University, their concurrent enrollment program is overseen and vetted directly by the university, meaning that students are guaranteed to be taking high-quality classes.

How Do I Find a Concurrent Enrollment Program?

The key to saving money with  concurrent enrollment is doing comprehensive research on the specific programs your child is considering. As concurrent enrollment programs are generally attached to universities, the credits you receive from these programs are not necessarily redeemable at all universities.

Start your research with the Department of Education’s comprehensive list of specific state policies on concurrent enrollment. Understanding these policies can help families understand whether public universities have concurrent enrollment programs that are worth looking into.

Next, research concurrent enrollment programs in your own community. For example, the College of San Mateo offers free enrollment in classes for high school students, provided they are taking fewer than 11 units.

Overall, concurrent enrollment is a great way to save money in college, but only if the program you chose is well vetted by a university.

Kenia French is a rising junior at Tufts University majoring in International Relations and Environmental Studies. She became interested in education through writing an investigative article on college affordability for the Tufts Daily.

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