Dual credit courses are often referred to as ‘early college’ opportunities for high school students. A new revision to Missouri’s dual credit policy will strengthen the program, and align it with national guidelines.

Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education announced the policy revisions in June, citing the alignment of the state’s dual credit policy with national guidelines established by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships and the Higher Learning Commission.

maingraphicThe program was designed to offer students the opportunity to gain both college credit and high school credit from the same course. Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Higher Education Liz Coleman, said a similar program, Advanced Placement, is often confused with the dual credit program.

“AP course are provided at certain high schools, and taught by high school teachers in order for the student to receive college credit,” Coleman said. “They take an exam at the end of that course and have to earn a passing grade on that exam to receive that credit. The dual credit classes are often taught by high school teachers, but they are teachers that are approved by the college or university that’s offering the course. Students earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously.”

According to the Department of Higher Education, 33 colleges or universities in Missouri offer a dual credit program in over 600 high schools across the state. Coleman said with more than 40,000 student enrolling in the dual credit program, demand has grown sharply.

“We have had dual credit courses for quite some time in Missouri,” Coleman explained. “More and more colleges and universities are offering dual credit classes; more students are taking those classes and really getting a head start on earning college credit.”

In a statement to the press, Rusty Monhollon, assistant commission of academic affairs said, “One of the primary purposes of the revised policy is to ensure that higher education institutions across the state deliver quality, college-level instruction in innovative ways …”

One way is through the increased level of education required for teachers wishing to teach dual credit courses.

“We strengthened the state’s policy for dual credit classes,” Coleman said. “We strengthened the qualifications for the teachers that are teaching those classes, to ensure that they have a degree in the area of the class they are teaching. They have to have a degree that is at least one level higher than what they teach. For most, that will be a master’s degree.”

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Coleman added one of the key goals with the policy revision was to increase the transferability of credits earned during the dual credit program. Colleges and universities determine the courses and credits they accept through transfer, but the hope is with the higher standards and stronger guidelines, more schools will accept the credits earned by high school students.

Students enrolled in the dual credit program also have the opportunity to experience the college work load prior to attending a college or university. Coleman explained this early preparation can be extremely beneficial to a student.

“It gives students a good idea of what college level work is like,” Coleman stated. “It helps them make the transition between high school and college. They take that course, and they can see what level they are going to need to work at to succeed in college.”

The policy was developed by officials from the Department of Higher Education, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and public and private colleges and universities in the state. The revised policy will be in full effect January 1, 2016.