More Georgia high school students are going to college, taking advantage of a new program that lets them enroll in tuition-free college courses earning high school and college credit simultaneously.
Charles Bell, dual enrollment coordinator at the University of North Georgia, said the school is seeing an “uptick” in dual enrollment students because of Senate Bill 2, which passed in 2015 and is part of Georgia’s Move On When Ready program.
Bell said the program allows students who have completed their sophomore year in high school to leave the high school setting and come to college full time and earn credits toward college and high school requirements. Seven UNG students earned an associate degree through the program while also graduating from high school. Bell said all of the students earned at least 60 hours of college credit, and a couple of the students had more than 70 credit hours.
“I do think it’s a good thing,” Bell said. “They’re learning time management and study skills. The confidence they gain is just going to be invaluable.”
Total enrollment in all dual credit programs at UNG was 888 students for the 2016-17 school year, up from 657 students a year ago.
While there haven’t yet been any graduates in the Move On When Ready program at Lanier Tech, Nancy Beaver, vice president for student affairs, expects that to come soon. Lanier Tech had 453 dual enrollment students in 2016-17, up from 372 the previous year. Lanier Tech is drawing students for the program from Gainesville City Schools and Hall, Forsyth, Barrow, Jackson and Dawson counties and some of the Mountain Education Centers in the state, Beaver added.
“We are primarily seeing a lot of growth in our core courses, our (general education) program which allows students to get their freshman year courses out of the way while still in high school,” Beaver said “We are also seeing people in the welding program, and those that are in some of our health occupation programs.”
Both Beaver and Bell said the fact that Move On When Ready students can attend college with free tuition and books without affecting Hope Scholarship credits is another reason more students are enrolling.
“It’s tuition free and book free for students, and it allows them to get college credit while still in high school,” Beaver said. “As long as they’re in the Move On When Ready, they’re not using their Hope credits. After graduation (from the two-year program), they still have their Hope credits.”
Bell said said there are some fees students have to pay, but those typically cost no more than $150.
He stressed, however, that the full-time program is not for everyone.
“You have to be socially ready, as well as academically ready,” he said. “I tell parents it has to be the right fit. I never want to see a child forced into doing dual enrollment. These are their formative years where they’re learning how to become an adult. You don’t want to force somebody to do something just because the parent wants them to do something because it’s free.”
Some students choose to go to college part time while continuing some classes in their local high school, rather than be in college full time.
“It is a very difficult thing to do,” Bell said of full-time dual enrollment. “That means you are leaving high school and you are taking full-time status. Only a very select amount of students are ready to take on a full college load.”