College & Workforce Readiness

Dual Enrollment: Who Pays?

By Catherine Gewertz — September 20, 2016 2 min read
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Dual-enrollment programs have many benefits: They increase students’ chances of going to college and of performing well once they’re enrolled. But someone’s got to pay a bill for those benefits, and who that someone is varies a lot from state to state.

Take a look at the situation in Ohio, for instance. New programs that let middle and high school students earn college credit are popular there. They’re billed as “free” to students and their families, but that’s because taxpayers are the ones who pay the bill.

The Columbus Dispatch has all the deets for you: One Ohio district spent $250,000 on Ohio’s College Credit Plus program in 2015-16. Others spent $70,000, $172,000, $185,000. Districts have to pay for the college textbooks, too.

The way it works in Ohio, according to the Dispatch, is that the state department of education foots the college bill and deducts that amount from districts’ per-pupil state funding.

Some fees are set by Ohio law: If a high school student studies with a professor on a college campus, for instance, the state will pay about $160 per credit hour for that class, the Dispatch says. If the professor teaches on the high school campus, that’s about $80 per credit hour. The state pays only $40 per credit hour if the course is taught by an appropriately qualified high school teacher, someone with some master’s level coursework in the subject.

But as we reported recently, the dual-enrollment credits colleges are most skeptical of accepting are the ones from courses taught by high school teachers.

Most students successfully transfer their dual-enrollment credits to the colleges they ultimately attend, but many have been disappointed to learn that their credits won’t transfer at all, or will apply only to their general-education requirements, not to their major. For some students, that’s meant that they can’t graduate early as they had hoped, raising a question about the way dual-enrollment programs are billed: as a way to save time and money by completing college more quickly.

The Education Commission of the States has documented each state’s policies on dual-enrollment programs in a 50-state comparison. The question of who is responsible for paying for dual-enrollment programs is covered on this page of their analysis. You’ll see that in nine states, students and parents foot the bill, a likely problem for low-income families. In 11 states, who pays depends on the particular dual-enrollment program. Check out the details of what states do; it varies a lot from state to state.

For more stories about dual-enrollment programs, see:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.