'Thoughtful Guidance' Critical for Course-Credit Transfer

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To the Editor:

Many dual-enrollment programs are making good on their promise to help students earn a college degree in less time, for less money ("Are Dual-Enrollment Programs Being Oversold?").

A key to success is smart design. High school students taking college courses need thoughtful guidance to help them choose classes with credits that are most likely to transfer. "Early college" high schools combine college courses with careful advising and intensive academic supports, enabling students to earn substantial, transferable college credit or a degree by their high school graduation. The results speak for themselves. Our work at the organization Jobs for the Future, where we have created or redesigned more than 280 early-college high schools since 2002, has resulted in one-third of these early-college students earning an associate degree or other postsecondary credential while still in high school.

Some early-college high schools are going farther, building an accelerated pipeline to a bachelor's degree. Early-college partnerships in El Paso, Texas, offer a prime example of this close alignment between high schools and higher education. Since 2009, over 1,100 students have entered the University of Texas, El Paso, with junior-level standing after having completed an associate degree at El Paso Community College through local early-college high schools.

Nonetheless, exemplary partnerships cannot solve the wider problem of credit loss for the broad universe of students who transition between postsecondary institutions. The problem lies in the lack of efficient transfer systems in U.S. higher education. Among a nationally representative sample of transfer students moving to open-admissions institutions, over two-thirds lost some credits when they switched schools, according to a 2014 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Some states have developed policies that clarify how college courses transfer between public two-year and four-year colleges. Improving transfer policies on a larger scale would speed the path to degree completion for all students and enable dual-enrollment students to take full advantage of their early start.

Joel Vargas
Vice President of School and Learning Designs
Jobs for the Future
Oakland, Calif.

Vol. 36, Issue 07, Page 28

Published in Print: October 5, 2016, as 'Thoughtful Guidance' Critical for Course-Credit Transfer
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