Board says dual credit is important, warns against rapid growth

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A trustee is concerned with the number of dual credit faculty in school districts.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

The board of trustees and a vice chancellor outlined the cost inefficiencies of the dual credit program and discussed solutions to alleviate the cost deficit at the committee-of-the-whole meeting Oct. 17 at Killen Center.

District member of the Student Success Committee, Dr. Jo-Carol Fabianke shares an update with the board of trustees about the growth of student success this semester in the Killen Center on Oct. 17. Aaron Garcia

Dr. Jo-Carol Fabianke said the district has discussed creating a college-ready culture for years. She said the college has seen the number of students graduate high school college-ready, causing a reduction in the need for developmental courses.

Fabianke said the dual credit enrollment has increased so the state has allowed the district to increase the number of dual credit courses it can offer.

She said this creates an opportunity to increase the workforce dual credit courses, but the courses must lead to an Associate of Art or an Associate of Science degree.

Fabianke said the district has not received much pushback from the school districts for the dual credit cost-share model because Alamo Colleges incorporated the school districts in the process.

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery expressed concern for the large number of students enrolling in dual credit courses without adequate advising, warning that students might take courses they don’t need.

 He asked how the district could ensure dual credit students receive adequate advising, acknowledging the district can’t go the high schools to advise students because the district can’t afford it nor is it in the district’s purview.

Fabianke said administrators are working on training the advisers and counselors at the high schools to help them better understand the impact of taking unnecessary classes.

She said the district needs to be more proactive to ensure students and parents understand the importance of course selection.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zárate advised the board to look at every expense associated with the dual credit program.

District 5 trustee Roberto Zarate discusses the importance and care the board should take for the cost of dual credit classes in the future at the Killen Center on Oct. 17. Aaron Garcia

He said he is a “huge fan” of the program, but the board needs to be aware of the sustainability and the capacity of the program operation.

Zárate said the board needs to approach the growing dual credit program with caution and may need to “curb their enthusiasm” and focus on the long-term impacts of the financial deficit the program is causing the district.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague questioned whether dual credit courses were focused on the core curriculum, saying he understood them to be so, so course selection should not impact a dual credit students’ major or pre-major.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the district wants dual credit to be the same as native enrollment, so he wants to work with school districts to determine how to achieve pathway alignment.

Sprague argued most of the dual credit courses are going to be party to all pathways, so there isn’t a need to “link-up” up advising to the school districts.

“Making people aware of those pathways if they’re thinking of coming here is great, but I think we’re probably in pretty good shape,” Sprague said.

District 1 trustee Joe Alderete asked how the average dual credit student enrolls in the program and what challenges they face.

Fabianke said awareness of the program is the first hurdle, but the colleges are very proactive in making sure most high school students are aware of the opportunity.

She guessed 90 percent of high school students are aware of the program because advisers, parents and faculty are informing the community.

Fabianke said students must meet the same college-level requirements as a native student to take a dual credit course, meaning the student must be at college-level in reading and math.

Alderete asked if this was equivalent to an A or B in their courses and if the Texas Success Initiative assessment is free for potential dual credit students.

Fabianke explained the TSI is not free because of the district, but most school districts are TSI test sites, which absorb the cost for students.

Alderte asked for confirmation that a potential dual credit student who does not pass the TSI exam cannot enroll in dual credit courses.

Fabianke confirmed.

Alderete said he lives in a school district where he was told about 3 percent of students did not pass the ACT and SAT tests.

SAT tests cannot be failed but higher education institutions can set minimum scores for acceptance.

Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, explained ACT and SAT tests are very different from the TSI.

Alderete said he was asking about this because he would like to see high school students take dual credit courses to avoid taking remedial courses when they transfer.

District 2 trustee Denver McClendon said he spoke with representatives of a school district with financial concerns and said he has financial concerns.

He admitted the program is great in exposing younger people to the college experience, but when he reviewed the cost, he took issue with the number of instructors employed from district faculty when compared to those employed by the school districts.

McClendon asked if there is a significant problem with having the school districts hire more faculty.

Fabianke said many school districts’ faculty were hired years ago, and the districts don’t want to “turn them away.”

She said school districts are opting for faculty qualified to teach dual credit when hiring new employees. She said school districts are also encouraging current faculty to obtain the qualifications to teach dual credit.

To teach dual credit courses, faculty must have a master’s degree plus 18 hours.

McClendon asked if school districts were incentivizing current faculty to go back to school.

Fabianke said many incentives would need to be offered by the school districts and many do not offer an incentive. Zárate said state organizations are working to develop a grant to incentivize teachers.

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