JENKINS: Debunking some common myths about Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment is one of those things that sounds almost too good to be true — except, of course, that it is true. And yet it might just be the best-kept secret in America (although I’m pretty sure the NSA knows all about it).

But in case you don’t work for the NSA and therefore have no idea what I’m talking about, dual enrollment is a program that allows qualified high school seniors (and some juniors) to take college courses for college credit while still in enrolled in high school. Students can then transfer those credits to the college or university of their choice.

And perhaps the best thing, for parents, is that the state picks up most of the tab. Heck, who wouldn’t be interested in dual enrollment?

Unfortunately, many students and their families don’t know much about the program, and even those who do may have gotten bad information. As someone who’s been involved with dual enrollment for 27 years, as a professor and administrator, and who has also had three kids go through the program, I’d like to take this opportunity to debunk some of the myths.

Advanced Placement is better than dual enrollment. Perhaps the best response to this claim is simply to point out that AP classes are, by definition, high school classes, taught by high school faculty, that somewhat resemble college classes. They might count for college credit, but only if students score high enough on a standardized, end-of-course exam.

DE classes, in contrast, are actual college classes taught by college faculty. For students who pass the course, college credit is automatic.

The quality of DE courses is low. The fact that most DE courses are offered by two-year and regional colleges is actually an advantage, not a disadvantage, as some might suppose.

An entry-level course at a major university might well have hundreds of enrollees and be taught by a graduate student. At a smaller institution like Georgia Perimeter College (where I teach) or Georgia Gwinnett College — both of which have thriving DE programs — that same course will likely have 20 or 30 students and be taught by a highly experienced, professional faculty member.

Moreover, there’s plenty of evidence that students who succeed in dual enrollment courses do very well when they transfer. That was certainly the case with my two older kids, who graduated with honors from selective private universities after earning more than 30 hours of DE credit in high school.

Some schools won’t accept dual enrollment credit. This might technically be true; for that matter, some colleges have stopped accepting AP credit.

But the fact is, most institutions do accept DE courses. I’ve personally advised scores of DE students, and I’ve never known any who had trouble transferring their hours.

If dual enrollment sounds appealing to you, check it out. Don’t just take my word for it — and don’t buy into the myths, either.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. E-mail Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.