I always knew I was going to send my daughter to college. That’s every parent’s dream, right? To see your child grow and succeed, eventually creating a life of their own and excelling beyond your wildest expectations. But as my daughter got older and we started looking at colleges, I grew concerned. I wanted to give my daughter the best education possible, but the cost for even one year at a state university was staggering. That’s when I discovered dual enrollment.

I first noticed it when I saw high school students registering for courses at community colleges. Because of my work with Bridgeway and online education, I knew how powerful it was to put a student’s education into their own hands. I was immediately curious as to how we could bring this to a wider audience. The benefits were there for parents and students alike, and the more we researched the more convinced we became that dual enrollment was the perfect fit for us.

First, the dual enrollment courses are a fraction of the cost per credit hour of a four year institution, and often times covered completely by the state’s education department. This is a huge benefit for parents, especially those whose child isn’t quite sure what they’d like to major in. Instead of spending upwards of $30,000 per year in a state school, parents can have their child complete their “freshman and sophomore year” requirements (12 credit hours per semester) for around $5,000 per year. A pittance by comparison.

For students, the courses offer them a glimpse into the college atmosphere, an opportunity to pursue fields of study that are of interest to them, and the time to test the waters of college level academics. At a time where most school budgets seem to be on the chopping block and more than half of American college students drop out after their freshman or sophomore year, the benefits of having your child check out the field of study that they’re interested in can save a lot of time and money.

And even with the reduced cost of credit hours, colleges are still reaping the benefits. Recent research out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga revealed that 10 percent more dual enrolled students graduated from college than the non-dual enrolled students at a targeted community college. It also found that students who entered college with earned college credit through dual enrollment were 27 percent more likely to graduate within a three year time frame as opposed to the students with no dual enrollment credits.

By now you must be saying, “This is amazing! Why isn’t every child in a dual enrollment program?” Unfortunately, there’s one minor sticking point that still persists: the transfer credit policies of some colleges.
For instance, when my daughter finished up her dual enrollment classes and made her final decision on the college she will attend, we discovered that because she will be a science major, her new school will only allow her to complete her science class requirements using courses taken at their university. However, her science course wasn’t a complete wash. The school will still transfer the credits, but only to meet her GenEd elective requirements. It was better than nothing, but I knew I had to do something more to make it easier for students to secure the credits they needed to graduate during dual enrollment.

In 2006, I started forming partnerships between Bridgeway and local colleges so that parents could learn about and register for dual enrollment classes through Bridgeway Academy. Eventually that led us to Knowledge Elements (KEEN), an online course delivery system that delivers online education to a consortium of colleges who then recognize those courses. This makes it easy for high school students to take and transfer dual enrollment courses to schools all across the United States. Since then, KEEN has expanded their college network and has now attained their ACE accreditation for many of their courses. As a result, Bridgeway’s dual enrollment courses are now accepted at over 1,800 colleges and universities. We are at the forefront of expanding dual enrollment for the American education system, and we’re not stopping there.
There’s an even greater opportunity for colleges and universities to expand their dual enrollment courses online. In 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 5.5 million students took at least one online course. For colleges, that’s a lot of revenue flowing in from students that wouldn’t normally attend. And for students, at least this generation of students, they’re presented with a chance to learn on the same exciting, immersive technologies they’ve seen growing up.

In fact, although my daughter took dual enrollment courses both online and on campus, she actually preferred the online experience because it gave her more access to her professors when she needed assistance or wanted to know more. In addition she found the online assignments were more challenging and relevant because they were project based. She spent her time applying what she was learning rather than simply preparing for a test. She did more writing, speeches, interacting with fellow classmates and critical thinking type assignments with her online courses than she did in the university classroom.

With all that being said, there is still a lot of work to do for dual enrollment to gain a broader reach nationally. First, more colleges and universities need to allow students to transfer dual enrollment credits. With a lower barrier to entry, parents will recognize the benefits of an early start to college, both financially and without the threat of lost credits. Next would be an orientation program for parents to help them understand the benefits of dual enrollment, as well as help them prepare for choosing classes, meeting advisors, and any other issues they might face along the way.

I know there are some parents out there who think the workload of dual enrollment is too much for a child. But I can assure you, during my time working in homeschool education I have seen students thrive when empowered with their own education. Dual enrollment doesn’t just give students an early glimpse at college, and save parents and students alike from crippling college debt in the future. It also enables students to grab hold of their education and focus on their likes and interests, making for happier and more fulfilled graduates.

So how do you get started? Check out Bridgeway’s online dual enrollment program and let our advisors help you find out whether the college you hope to attend will recognize your courses. From there it is as simple as filling out an enrollment form, purchasing your books, and getting ready to learn! Our advisors will help you select the right courses and get you registered in the right program. From there the future is wide open.