Louisiana education leaders set early college credit goal

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana education leaders are pushing for all high school graduates within a decade to leave school with college credit or an industry-based credential, a target inline with the state’s new higher education master plan.

The Advocate reports that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which oversees K-12 public education, and the Board of Regents, which oversees public colleges, adopted the goal for 2029 graduates during a joint meeting Wednesday.

“We are focused on improving talent development in the state of Louisiana,” Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed told the boards.

The goal, if accomplished, would double the current achievement level through courses known as dual-enrollment, in which students take college-level classes for both high school and college credit. Half of the high school graduating class of 2018 earned college credit for at least one course or a marketable industry credential, according to the state Department of Education.

Earlier this year, Gov. John Bel Edwards proposed that all public high school juniors and seniors have access to two courses for college credit without charge. But the governor’s plan never won political traction, partly because it lacked financing.

Louisiana has about 90,000 high school juniors and seniors. Their access to dual enrollment courses varies widely among regions and between rural and urban areas.

Under current rules, students must have a grade point average of at least 2.5 and a 19 on the ACT college readiness test — along with scores of at least 19 in the math portion of the ACT and 18 in English — to take a dual enrollment class. Eligibility requirements likely will change as the target for participation increases.

But expansion of dual enrollment offerings will come with a price tag.

Louisiana is spending about $17 million this budget year for dual enrollment courses. How much it will cost to boost the courses to make them available to more students in line with the target is unclear.

Reed said education leaders may request “seed money” during the 2020 legislative session, then additional dollars in 2021. The target endorsed by the two education boards would first apply to the high school freshmen class of 2025, which would enroll next fall.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Doris Voitier said students who earn college credit in high school typically fare better in college. Voiter, superintendent of the St. Bernard Parish School District, said financing a major expansion of dual enrollment “is something we can work toward and resolve.”

The early college credit goal is part of the Regents’ updated higher education master plan, which set a 2030 target for boosting the percentage of working-age adults with a college degree or industry credential from 44% to 60%. Reed said 56% percent of state jobs will require post-high school training in 2020.

“We are lagging, and we need to be leading,” Reed said.

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