Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dual Credit for Homeschoolers Leads to Thoughts About Our Family

A neighbor who doesn't know much about homeschooling was asking about a mutual acquaintance that started homeschooling her son at the start of grade nine. She wondered what ever happened to him. I explained to my friend about dual credit at community college and said he took that route.

Dual credit is when a high school aged homeschool student takes community college courses that are then counted as both fulfilling the high school curriculum (to fill a transcript) and also count toward getting the college degree IF the student wishes to do that.

For those who don't know, I'll explain this. Let's say a grade 10 homeschooler takes college level US History at community college. That could count toward the high school program and the credit could count toward the college degree if the college the student is seeking the degree from will accept it.

It is called dual credit when the student does apply those college credits toward a degree. One path is to attend one community college and earn an Associate's Degree at that school. If that method is chosen a homeschooler in their four years of high school may attend community college part time and wind up having their Associate's Degree at the same date that a high school student would be getting handed their high school diploma. Or perhaps they may finish their associates in the year their same aged peers were a freshman in college.

Whether the homeschooler has some college credit that they wish to transfer into some other college so they can take a smaller number of college courses at the (more expensive) four year college is up to them. That is another path some take. Some students try to shave one or even two full years off of the education at the larger more expensive college or university. Surely saving $50K per year appeals to some families.

This method of using inexpensive community college credits and being a transfer student at a four year college (for all types of students not just homeschoolers) was recommended in a book published last year DIY U.
I almost finished that book and am not happy with it. I made many margin notes of my disagreements, mostly what I have experienced in real life that show that these ideas don't always work. I was reading the book for an Amazon Vine review and something unusual happened, I lost the book. I wasn't able to finish reading it but worse, all my notes were lost that I was going to use to write the review. I have resisted borrowing it from a library to finish it as I'd have to skim what I'd already read to take notes in order to make my points in the review (since I take issue with and disagree with some of the content).

My first thought about dual credit is that if the family feels community college is a good idea for homeschool high school they should use it. I can think of a few good reasons: to access science labs that are hard to do at home or more dangerous at home, to teach subjects mom doesn't want to teach or can't teach, like lab science or pre-calculus or calculus, to give the student more classroom experience because they like a live professor, or they enjoy live students in a class and like the classroom learning environment (but the parents feel the local high school is not an option for any number of different reasons which I'll not get into). Sometimes the parent feels it is time to give more independence in learning than having mom as the teacher and school principal; it is time for the student to start to answer to non-parent teachers. Sometimes the community college course is impressive on the homeschool high school transcript, more than a 'mommy grade' given for a home course. Lastly some of those courses are available as online classes but not all students want or thrive with online classes and prefer live classes.

The teen mentioned previously in this post decided to pursue a career as a college history professor. At age eighteen he was accepted as a candidate for a Bachelor's Degree at a well respected private university but decided to go the less expensive route by going to a state university (where he lives on campus in a dorm so he's having the typical college life experience). Another teen whose mother I know did dual credit at a community college then took a gap year then enrolled as a transfer student to a respected private college seeking a degree in the arts.

When I told my neighbor about dual credit she got angry. I'll sum it up to say I think she felt it was cheating in a way, and that homeschoolers should have to go through all the classes like school kids then go through all the college level classes at the older age. It seemed to come through as the attitude (if you homeschool you may already have encountered this mindset) that "my child must suffer through all this and jump through these hoops so the homeschooled kids should as well".

I tried explaining that at the community college they are actually doing college level work so why shouldn't it count as college work? If a student can do higher level courses there is nothing wrong with skipping past taking high school courses with easier content. I couldn't get through to her but it was not for lack of trying; I don't feel that my friend had an open mind to really hear and to reason about what we were discussing.

Another friend is considering having her homeschooled child start to take community college courses in grade 9 then to transfer as a junior to an above average if not competitive college in order to save two years of expensive tuition.

My main issue against dual credit for those who think they may seek admissions to a rigorous academic and competitive college is this: there are slots for transfer students then there are slots for incoming freshman. The fact is, and this is a fact, that there are many less slots for incoming transfer students than freshman.

My husband's alma mater reported admitting just over 2000 incoming freshman for the 2010 year but only 140 transfer students. Additionally that university does not take any transfer students into their school of business or school of architecture. The odds of even getting into that school are low but to try for one of the few slots for a transfer student is narrowing the odds even more.

I also compared that artsy college's statistics to my husband's alma mater and found the same percentage were admitted as incoming freshman but the transfer student acceptance rate was exactly double in the percent which shows that the artsy school is much more open minded toward admitting transfer students. But, the artsy school only accepted 85 transfer students while my husband's alma mater has been accepting between 130-160. Plus there was an explanation on the FAQ of the more difficult to get into alma mater that stated the transfer students must have done well in high school and come from a four year college and have met the specific requirements they have for transfer students.

On the other hand, if the student who took community college courses when high school aged and wants to use dual credit seeks a degree from a college that is easier to get in to then it seems that using dual credit would be more of a real possibility.

The good thing about the option of dual enrollment is no decisions need to be made early on. The homeschooler can attend community college (if they get in and are allowed by the school) and then later on the student and family can decide if the community college credits earned will be used as dual credit or if they will JUST be used for the homeschool high school transcript.

I think there are benefits to attending a four year college for the full four years that can outweigh saving the cost of college tuition and room and board. I have done many things as an adult to live frugally and I try to not overspend when I can get the same good or service at a lower price. I think college costs have skyrocketed and realize saving money is a top priority for some people especially if they truly don't have the money to pay $50K a year for an expensive college. However I don't think a family's first consideration for what college their child attends should be where they can get the cheapest tuition.

This is where I could tell multiple personal stories from my life and my husband's life which would further explain where we are coming from and what impacts our decisions for our own kids but I'll just keep quiet about those tonight.

I'll end by saying that I'm getting sick of thinking about the options for homeschooling high school and thinking about implications on my kid's college years. I have begun to feel like a puppet on a string with the marionette operators being some strangers 'out there' who are college admissions officers who grin like maniacs while taunting us with threats that we'd better make the right choices or our kid's entire careers in their adult lives is in jeopardy. Other times I feel like my kids are dogs in a circus act with colleges holding up the hoops to jump through while I'm the scared trainer cracking the whip and forcing them to leap through hoops.

I just want to live my life and homeschool my kids and enjoy them now while I have them home, and to focus really on high school studies. I don't feel rushed such that I should be cramming my son to take online AP classes or community college classes in grade nine. I don't even really want to think about making him take an SAT subject test in grade nine.

I am starting to feel that some people around me who seek to influence me are rushing things and pushing down higher education into younger years. I hated and resisted that regarding when my sons were babies, toddlers, and in the elementary years. I still hate it now that they are middle schoolers and as we gear up for high school to start in the fall of this year. I'd like to focus on just doing well on high school level studies and to somehow find enjoyment in that learning not just be focused on passing a standardized test at the end. I would like the studies to be good enough so that a test could be passed but I don't want to be overly focused on the testing.

We've made it so far without my kids having diagnoses related to anxiety and being spared therapy or prescription psych drugs. I don't want to do anything to stress them about about college admissions to get them going down that road now! We've made it this far with well-adjusted kids I want to keep them in that good state of mind!

And I want my sons to be kids while they are kids...even for these last few years before it is time to make the big decisions about where to go to college and when plans are set to fly the nest.


KC said...

I'm right there with you with hating all the pressure that's coming down from "on high" that we have to do everything absolutely right or else are kids are doomed to a life of misery and failure! My dd is in 5th grade and I have people already asking me what we're going to do for high school (to homeschool or not) and how that will affect her college choices. Bleh. Let's just let them be kids for a few more years before worrying about the job market for when they're out of grad school, eh?

Crimson Wife said...

The government-run high schools in my area all offer dual-credit programs so I'm not sure why your neighbor is getting all bent out of shape.

The problem out here in CA is that budget cuts have forced the community colleges to cut way back on the courses offered. Dual-credit students have low priority for enrollment so they are often shut out of classes they want to take.

ChristineMM said...

Wow Crimson Wife I never heard of a government run high school offering dual credit. That does NOT happen in CT. Perhaps that is why the private high schools are thriving in CT, the ones who offer more rigorous academics than the public schools. We have a lot here plus have boarding schools and prep schools.

The woman upset about dual credit with cc classes for homeschoolers is paying a lot of money for private school to try to get superior academics for her child and other things that she feels private schools can offer that public schools don't. Here is her son's school tuition.

Grades 1-3: $19,250

Grades 4-6: $21,890

Grades 7-8: $27,990

Grades 9-12: $28,990

ChristineMM said...

In some private high schools if the student is excelling and the school doesn't have that course somtimes they leave campus to attend a college course then get credit for it. My husband did this with calculus at his parochial high school. However in public schools that does not happen at all in CT, they offer an honors class or an AP class for the rigorous academics. Spots in AP classes in public high school are limited by the budget and the slots available. People I know with kids in the school system say this is highly gated, meaning who gets in to the AP classes in public high school is highly selective and sometimes requires the parents kissing butt and pulling strings with the school administrators. Those are examples of why homeschoolers in CT have more options. I could put my kid in an online AP class so long as I have the money to pay for it, he has no hoops to jump through however his success in the class would depend on real ability and hard work at the course work.

dstb said...

Hi Christine,

We have been homeschooling for the last 4 years, but my oldest son has decided to go back to public school in the fall as a Freshman in high school.

In looking through the high school program of studies, it appears that they have a couple of ways for kids to earn college credits in high school (BTW, we live in northern CT).

First, they can take classes at the high school that will earn them credits at UCONN. ($25 fee/credit) It is part of what is called the Early College Experience. See
Our town only offers Language Arts and Social Studies classes. The h.s. teachers need to be certified as ECE instructors, so I suspect other towns may offer classes in Math or Science that would qualify. I would think UCONN credits would be easily transferable.

The second option for college credit is called the College/Career Pathways Program. I don't know much about this yet, but there are certain courses offered by the high school that would also earn them credit at Asnuntuck Comm. College. These credits may be transferable to other colleges. Currently there are 5 courses listed, 2 business classes, English Comp, Algebra II, and Environmental Science. This is open only to high school juniors and seniors.

This is just what the high school in our town offers. Other towns may have different options.

I just wanted to let you know that there are these options for public school kids. If you check out your public school's website and they do offer something similar, you could let your neighbor know that non-homeschooled kids can take college courses as well.


Mary Ann Kelley said...

In Virginia, our state colleges have guaranteed admission agreements with the community colleges. Students "who graduate from one of Virginia's 23 community colleges with an associate's degree and a minimum grade point average may obtain GUARANTEED admission to more than 20 of the commonwealth's colleges and universities." Many private schools in Virginia have followed the suit and now offer agreements. You can see the list along with the requirements for each school here. The caveat is that you are not guaranteed to make it into the major of your choice, but neither are incoming freshmen.

Fire Wife said...

I actually went to high school with someone who did the dual credit... while in public high school. He graduated from public high school and a week later graduated with his Associates degree. Went on to get his bachelors, but was already halfway done (basically).

I'm sure it varies from school-to-school, but perhaps parents just need to inform themselves about such options, and check with their child's school about participating.

by the way - It was his (the student's) choice. He was bored in high school.

princess granola said...

I recently started reading your blog and as a future homeschooling mama- my girls are 1 and 3 now- I have been enjoying your insights.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and went to public school. But I hated high school and homeschooling was not an option we thought about. So I dual-enrolled at the local community college and finished high school in 3 years and ended up with some credits to take with me to college.

That gave me the option to take a year off to work, intern and explore while my friends were still finishing high school. I moved to Florida, had a great time, met my husband and never left. I enrolled in Florida in community college again and used my high school credits to finish my aa degree quickly. Then I took another year off to have fun, start a business, move with my husband to another part of Florida. Then I decided to enroll in college for my BA. State schools here have an agreement to accept all students with AA degrees. No fight for me. It was a great scenario for my education.

So it seems it's different according to state.

Sandy McAnulty said...

I really appreciate your words and thoughts, especially in regards to feelings of being rushed toward having your children take online AP classes or being enrolled in community college classes. There is a lot of pressure facing parents in regards to the high school and college years, and it is quite difficult avoiding anxiety when considering the education path, maybe even more so for homeschooling parents. It never goes away. I hope you are doing well, nearly three years from the date of your blog post. Blessings and strength,Sandy,
Texas mom to seven home schooled children. We are currently down to three remaining home schooled kids.

ChristineMM said...

Dear Sandy, Thanks for your thoughts. Three years have gone by and we moved to Texas where community college state rules are more friendly towards homeschoolers and even schooled kids for dual credit.
My older son took his first community college class in fall of his grade 11 year.
My experience after him taking 2 classes is so far the content is easier than what we did at home. So I no longer thing dual credit CC classes are "pushing" a teen. I do still feel AP is not right for my son. I suspect from what friends tell me that there is more homework and also depending on the teacher and class, more busywork and more rote memorization. The College Board is rewriting AP tests not to try to reduce parroting of facts and to increase critical thinking and analysis and application of data and ideas.

My older son wants independence and he is burned out of homeschool lessons at home with Mom. He wants to be out in the world now. He wishes he could be working at an apprenticeship in a real job not studying school lessons actually.

Holly M said...

Thank you for this! Having graduated two from home, one who got a GED/Public School (long story) and with a Sophomore at home I feel this. I see our local groups pushing dual enrollment because of cost, transitioning easier, nobody ever mentions that no school HAS to accept your credits btw, etc. It boggles my mind that so many homeschool families freak out about high school and about college and really, success from a worldy standpoint. My girls who graduated from home never did any dual enrollment, passed the ACT with flying colors, and had no issues with my homemade transcripts being accepted to every school they applied at. (one has since graduated with an Associate's in ministry and one with a Bachelor's in Biology - Magna Cum Laude even, both attended a Private Christian College with major scholarships). There's already enough pressure on kiddos why add more? The high school year's fly by and I'd rather enjoy them! Besides, college isn't for every student and then what? .... We saw God move in so many ways for our girls college experiences and I think we put him on the back burner many times when it comes to homeschooling high school.