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Dual enrollment key to the state of Alabama

02/13/2014

How would you like to receive a four-year degree only two years after graduating high school? Or an Associates degree at high school graduation?

This is happening across the state of Alabama and has been for some time. The program is called ‘dual enrollment,’ meaning that students are allowed to enroll in college classes as a part of their high school curriculum for both college and high school credit.

Of course, there is still a bill attached to college enrollment. In fact, most colleges charge normal tuition to students who are dually enrolled.

This is why many students, like myself, weren’t able to take advantage of the dual enrollment program. It’s simply too expensive for the average high schooler pushing buggies on the weekends just to get by.

Well guess what? Dual enrollment accessibility is now on the radar of those who have the ability to make it happen.

Yes, the good ole Alabama Legislature has picked up on a program that is proven to be effective in many areas.

Dual enrollment not only prepares high schoolers for college level academics, it also allows them to pursue an Associates degree where they can gain skills that potential employers look for in a community’s workforce.

But as with everything the Alabama Legislature gets involved in, there’s a catch. Both the Alabama House Democratic and Alabama House Republican caucuses have developed their own strategies for making dual enrollment more accessible.

Last month, Democrats proposed repealing a $5 million teacher liability insurance program that the Legislature created last year and allocating it to dual enrollment programs to provide scholarships to students.

Democrats say that the insurance program has been useless because local school districts and private organizations like the Alabama Education Association already provide teachers with liability insurance.

Last week, Republicans announced their competing plan to support dual enrollment. Under their plan, anyone who donates to a state-run dual enrollment scholarship fund would receive a tax credit for half of the amount donated. The plan caps the tax credits available each year at $5 million. Therefore, the funds available for scholarships could total to $10 million; twice the funds that Democrats proposed.

Democrats argue that $5 million in new tax credits really equals a $5 million reduction in the overall Education Trust Fund. Republicans, who hold a Supermajority in the legislature, have countered that the $5 million state obligation would only be there if $5 million of donations were made.

Under the Democrats’ plan, only $5 million per year is allocated. Under the GOP plan, there is potential for $10 million per year. However, if zero donations come in, the state gives zero dollars to dual enrollment, which results in no real solution for the program.

I say that the two parties should come together on this issue. It is obvious that both parties want to support dual enrollment in Alabama.

A realistic solution can be worked out to guarantee at least $5 million per year. If the new insurance program is repealed and a new donation-matching tax credit is created at a $2.5 million maximum state obligation.

This way, Alabama gets a guaranteed new and improved dual enrollment program and state budgets are not strained any more than they should be.

While you or I may be too old to take advantage of the dual enrollment opportunities. Who knows? Maybe your children might be able to take advantage of a state-supported dual enrollment program! Stay tuned for more.

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