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How this bill could limit high school students' access to dual enrollment
But officials say for the program to continue to work, it needs more rules
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Mackenzie Walker, right, a dual enrollment student at Lanier College Career Academy, leads a tour of the kitchen available to culinary students during a program selection meeting at Lanier College and Career Academy on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. The school give students the opportunity for students to select a variety of work-study disciplines as an alternative route to high school graduation and job placement. - photo by Austin Steele

The number of students in dual enrollment programs across Gainesville and Hall County schools continues to grow year over year.

It’s a trend occurring statewide.

Now, Georgia lawmakers are looking to place limits on admittance rates to curb growing costs, which have surpassed $100 million annually.

The changes passed in House Bill 444 on March 7 include allowing high schoolers only 30 free credit hours at technical schools, colleges and universities while enrolled in high school.

Anything more would have to be paid for out of pocket or as a deduction on HOPE scholarship funding.

There are also provisions in the bill that would restrict ninth-graders from participating in dual enrollment with technical schools, and also drop 10th-graders from dual enrollment at liberal arts colleges and universities.

The bill passed on a nearly party line vote, with Republicans in support of the changes.

Democrats worry the bill will impinge on the various academic timelines and aspirations of high-achieving students.

Rep. Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville, said that despite the new restrictions, “I believe (dual enrollment) will continue to be widely successful.”

The program has outpaced growth estimates since its inception, he added, with costs doubling over the last three years.

“We’ve got to be good stewards of taxpayer money,” Dubnik said. “(The bill) does what we need to do to strike that balance.”

Caps on the number of ninth- and 10th-grade students in the program are preferable to eliminating enrollment from freshman and sophomore classes altogether, Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said.

“That (dual enrollment) experience is, sometimes, just what we need for our most precocious learners,” he added.

Schofield said having college professors teach on high school campuses is a big bonus to the program, essential at schools like Hall County’s Early College at Jones, where dual enrollment courses are held.

More than 35,000 students in Georgia took dual enrollment courses in 2017,

There are currently 603 students in dual enrollment in eight Hall County Schools, but just 47 in ninth and 10th grades.

Gainesville High has 214 students taking dual enrollment courses.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said he is a “big supporter” of the program, which is more than just an introduction to college.

Williams said he also supports “more structure given to it.”

“It would be wise to place guardrails on it rather than overhauling it or eliminating funding sources,” Williams said.

By the numbers - 2018-19 academic year

School, students in dual enrollment

  • Gainesville High 214
  • Cherokee Bluff High 31
  • Chestatee High 71
  • East Hall High 72
  • Flowery Branch High 107     
  • Johnson High 132
  • Lanier College & Career 16
  • North Hall High 144
  • West Hall High 30