After a timeout in August, the Louisiana Board of Regents is set Monday to consider tightening the rules on how high school students can earn college credit, without unduly curbing access to the popular classes.
The board delayed action on the initial proposal at the request of Gov. John Bel Edwards' office and amid concerns by Jim Henderson, president of the University of Louisiana System.
Henderson said the revised draft is far better than the proposed changes unveiled in August, which he said would have overly restricted access to the courses.
Higher Education Commissioner Joseph Rallo said the latest draft follows months of input from a wide range of groups with the aim of enacting guidelines that are neither too strict nor too lenient.
"We are trying to work with the high schools and the principals," he said.
Dual enrollment allows high school students to take classes that provide credit for both high school and college.
It seems like a no brainer — high school students earning up to a year of college credit, which means big savings for students, families and t…
Students and their families can earn 30 credit hours or more before they formally enter college, saving money and time.
The classes are so popular that enrollment has more than doubled in the past seven years to 20,036 public school students last year, compared with 9,651 in 2009.
The issue has sparked interest in the Legislature, including what steps the state can take to get more students enrolled, especially since nearly half of public high school seniors take less than a full course load.
Louisiana's five-year push to reach the national average for public high school students earning college credit missed the target — by a lot.
But the growth has also set off alarms about the quality of the classes and how to ensure that high school students are being challenged as they would be if taking the class on a college campus.
"Concerns around lack of uniformity in course content and rigor, access and eligibility, faculty qualifications and cost and funding models are consistently raised, not only in Louisiana but across the nation," according to documents prepared for the Regents.
The aim of the changes is to make dual enrollment identical to a college course "whether the class is made up of high school or college students and taught at the school or on the campus," according to the Regents' staff.
Dual enrollment classes are also offered online.
One of the proposed changes would toughen rules for dual enrollment instructors. Those who are not college faculty members would have to undergo training by the college on how to deliver and grade the course.
Colleges and universities would have to spell out to the Board of Regents what training instructors undergo before they could teach the class to high school students.
The lack of credentialed instructors is a "major barrier" to expanding access to the classes, according to a report prepared by the staff of the state Board of Regents and the state Department of Education earlier this year.
But a competing concern among some higher education officials is the rigor of the course.
Rallo has said that just because a teacher has taught algebra for 20 years and has a master's degree, it does not mean he or she can teach a college-level course.
Under current rules, both high school and college officials have to sign off on who teaches dual enrollment classes. However, the current guidelines on the quality of instruction carry less rigor than the proposed ones.
Another change under review by the regents would require agreements between colleges and high schools on how the courses are to be taught.
In a third area, students would have to address any remediation needs in math and English while they are taking dual enrollment courses. Under the previous proposal, those students would have had to finish their remediation before tackling a dual enrollment class.
Details on why the governor's office sought a delay on the change in August is unclear. Aides to Edwards did not respond to requests for comment.
Donald Songy, the governor's educator adviser, asked the Regents to have the College and Career Readiness Commission, previously inactive, review the issue, according to board minutes.
Henderson, the newly named chair of the panel, said the delay allowed the commission, the Regents staff, public school officials and others to craft a better plan.
"We have gone from a policy that I thought was probably contrary to what our goals should be in dual enrollment to one that is much better aligned ... so that more students have access to dual enrollment," he said.
State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said he is concerned that new rules would dampen interest in dual enrollment and force students to pay more for the same classes in college.
Edwards has made dual enrollment one of his public school priorities.
At his request, the Legislature this year increased spending on dual enrollment by $10 million per year, to $17.5 million.