Dual credit bills passed by Senate

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The bills will head to the House Committee for further approval.

By Wally Perez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Two dual credit-related bills have passed to the House after unanimous votes favoring the bills by the Senate Committee on Higher Education.

The hearings were streamed live at www.senate.state.tx.us/av-archive.php.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chair of the committee, filed Senate Bill 802 and Senate Bill 1091.

SB 1091, passed Monday, would limit the number of courses offered for dual credit by school districts and public institutions of higher education.

The amended SB 802, passed March 22, would implement a study and report regarding best practices in transferring course credit between public institutions of higher education.

“Recently, dual credit has seen a high rise in popularity with more high schools offering students options for dual credit courses,” Seliger said during a Senate Committee on Higher Education meeting March 15.

“With the expansion, we should ensure students are taking courses that will transfer and be valuable to the post-secondary degree for courses taken by high school kids.”

The state only funds dual credit courses that fall within core curriculum, career and technical education, and foreign language, but higher education institutions can still offer courses outside those areas.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, decisions about who pays tuition, fees or other costs for dual credit are made at the local level. Some districts pay for the students out of local funds or their high school allotment, while others require students and parents to pay.

Seliger said higher education institutions must accept core credit and the bill better ensures that dual credit courses that are offered will transfer to general academic institutions and apply toward a degree.

SB 1091 would prohibit higher education institutions from offering any dual credit course outside of those funded by the state.

The amended SB 802 better clarifies the intent of the report for the coordinating board to focus on the articulation agreements between Texas higher education institutions.

The study must follow specific guidelines, which includes evaluating existing articulation agreements that govern the transfer of course credit between institutions of higher education.

It also identifies those institutions that are implementing the best practices.

The coordinating board will then submit the results of their report to the Legislature along with any recommendations they believe requires legislative action. The amended bill changes the date the report is due to Nov. 1, 2018, from Sept. 1, 2018.

State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, questioned during the March 15 committee meeting if SB 802 would be redundant because of ongoing studies by the University of Texas at Austin and the RAND Corporation.

Rex Peebles, assistant commissioner for THECB, said there are at least three studies revolving around dual credit with the RAND Corporation being one under contract with the coordinating board.

Peebles said he wasn’t sure whether UT’s dual credit task force looks at articulation agreements currently, but it may in the future.

The RAND Corporation study looks at memorandums of understanding, or MOU’s, that exist between colleges and universities for the offering of dual credit, but not necessarily the articulation agreements.

West questioned the difference between articulation agreements and MOU’s, which describes a bilateral or multilateral agreement between two or more parties.

West asked if it would be more efficient to have them look at both articulation agreements and MOU’s at the same time, to which Peebles responded that it probably would.

Peebles said the purpose of the MOU is to define the relationship of the two entities in terms of where the course will be offered, when it will be offered and what will be offered.

He said it doesn’t address the issue of how the credit that’s earned will transfer to the particular institution that offers dual credit to another institution.

“I believe that’s really the primary purpose of the legislation being discussed … to actually look at the articulation agreement between the two-year schools and four-year schools, or four-year schools and four-year schools as the case may be,” Peebles said.

Jacob Fraire, president of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, testified in favor of the bill during the meeting.

“For the first time, I think this study compliments the RAND study in that we’re looking specifically at dual credit in a credit transfer conversation,” Fraire said.

“We’re going to be able to see for the first time how dual credit transfer is a component of the articulation agreements that exist between community colleges and universities.”

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