Today I spent time at a great Prichard Committee event here in Kentucky focused on College Affordability. There were a variety of speakers sharing a variety of data points. It was very good stuff. Really professional. The best part, even, was that the Student Voice Team released their new report (which you should read ... proud does not begin to capture it). Great day.
But, let me summarize.
- State support for higher education is flat to negative. Indefinitely.
- College tuition and, particularly, housing costs are going up. Indefinitely.
- Pell grants help poor families a lot. Kentucky state support helps too, but less.
- Lots of kids don't think college is for them & don't go. Cost is an increasing concern.
- Lots of kids who do start, don't finish.
- Rather few kids finish community college.
- Some, especially those that don't finish, default on loans and ruin their credit.
- High schools are not doing enough to advise, especially because of the lack of guidance counselors.
- And, inequity is still rampant throughout.
Let me also summarize the number of serious plans articulated to address this in structural ways ... nada.
That's not an indictment of anyone. Everyone honestly is well meaning in this space and I enjoyed all the conversations today. But, we seem locked into a pattern here and nothing I heard today (outside of seriously listening to students more which policy folks seem to applaud but not really grasp) seemed to have a real chance at changing the pattern. Some folks I spoke with today, including critical folks with state agencies, even seemed resigned to this unchanging reality including the indefinite inequity.
Enter dual credit (or dual enrollment, or early college, middle college, etc.). It came up a couple times today but mostly just in passing. That missed the mark, unfortunately.
In my work innovating in education the past 10 years, few things seem to have the screaming potential that dual credit does ... and few things are harder to actually implement, let alone change. I spent 3 years trying to build a dual credit program at STEAM and it is still not that great. But, it is the key. I'm convinced of that now more than ever before. We need to get serious about implementing large scale models across Kentucky and resetting our expectations around the space between high school and college (i.e. there should very little).
Jobs for the Future has a summary of the research.
The What Works Clearinghouse also recently took a look and concluded ... it works (image at left).
REL Appalachia even did a serious study of Kentucky dual credit last year. Some of their findings:
- Dual credit programs are an important feature of college readiness efforts.
- Program implementation and costs vary wildly.
- Key challenges include
- limited availability of high school teachers with appropriate credentials,
- limited access to courses and instructors in isolated rural districts,
- limited student readiness for college coursework,
- financial burden for students and families,
- inconsistent standards for ensuring course quality, and
- lack of dedicated staff to manage dual credit programs.
This should have been discussed today in more detail. We need serious attention here, especially with the Kentucky Secretary of Education announcing last week that he wants all students to do a dual credit experience while in high school. Kudos to Hal for having a broad vision here. That's the kind of vision we will need to reset the status quo ... followed up with a great deal of leadership to make the vision a reality.
Ultimately, if we are serious about resetting the status quo we could just make the Associates Degree the end point for high school (rather than, or in addition to, the high school diploma). At first blush it sounds crazy, but it is less crazy than you think. Both the money and the time required for this are largely already within the P-12 model. If we made it a P-13 model, we could get a majority of kids to the Associates. A lot would have to change to make it happen, but mostly it is changing norms rather than markets, laws, or architectures. In short, if we wanted to do that for Kentucky kids, we could reasonably achieve it within a moderately short period of time. Certainly, the kindergartners of today could be in a P-13 system that gets them an Associates if we wanted to do that. Even if we missed the full target here, we would still get lots more kids to College and more would finish. I do not see the downside to trying.
If we just keep having the same discussion we had today simply acknowledging the patterns, however, those kindergarteners tomorrow will face the same (or worse) situation than our college entrants today. Thus, if we are discussing making college seriously affordable and changing the current patterns, we necessarily must be discussing dual credit programs.