Audio: Study touts benefits of concurrent enrollment

Oklahoma’s concurrent enrollment tuition waiver program allows qualifying high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college classes before they actually graduate.  Eligible seniors can actually get tuition waivers for up to six credit hours a semester.  The idea is to encourage high school students to jump start their college education while saving their families money.

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Listen to Sen Stanislawski, Chancellor Glen Johnson and Tony Hutchison with Regents for Higher Education discuss concurrent enrollment program.

It’s been more than a decade since the program was created back in 2005, so State Sen. Gary Stanislawski wanted to know how it’s been doing and whether Oklahoma could do more to encourage greater participation.

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At his request, the Senate Education Committee met Thursday to take a look at the state’s concurrent enrollment program.  Stanislawski said he was very pleased with the data presented to the committee.

“I wanted to know if it was fulfilling its original mission and what the outcomes have been.  We’ve seen data presented today that tell us it has been a resounding success” said Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.  “I’m very pleased with how well the program has been accepted throughout higher education and in our high schools, and in the growth rate of students participating, saving thousands of dollars while earning college credit.”

Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson called the program a game-changer that’s helping more students earn college degrees.  That’s increasingly important because 67 percent of all jobs created in Oklahoma by 2020 will require some college, a long-term certificate or a college degree—37 percent of all jobs created in the state by 2020 will require an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“We believe concurrent enrollment is absolutely a critical initiative in terms of driving our major goal, our major agenda item in higher education which is college degree completion,” Johnson said, noting the program offers multiple benefits, including cost savings, reduced time to earn a degree, and higher retention and graduation rates for students who take advantage of concurrent enrollment while still in high school.

Johnson presented data from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that showed the number of students participating has more than doubled since the program began, from 5,526 to 11,722 ten years later.

The number of credit hours earned increased during that time by 158 percent, and 97 percent of the students that take concurrent enrollment successfully complete the course.

The committee also looked at what could be done to encourage more students to participate in concurrent enrollment, including doing more to help students on free and reduced lunches, as well as addressing out of pocket expenses, such as fees that are not covered by the tuition waiver.

“I think that’s a barrier for some students,” Stanislawski said.  “While the current budget situation may limit what we can do right now, it needs to be on the radar.  We need to have a plan over the next several years to increase funding in this area to help more students receive a college degree.”