Getting the proverbial “jumpstart” on career success is beneficial to our nation’s students and serves as a great tool to explore interests. While there are numerous programs around the country, the state of Florida is a standout with a decades-long history of success with accelerated learning opportunities dating back to the 1970s.
Dual enrollment allows high school students an opportunity to take postsecondary courses and receive both high school and postsecondary credits. Educators, students and parents laud the programs, which widen the path toward success.
Just in the last five years, about 60,000 students a year have benefited from the Florida Dual Enrollment program which was enacted by the Florida Education Finance Program. According to the state’s education website, the program speeds up the way students can obtain associate degrees or industry certifications by taking postsecondary coursework while attending school. Many students have gone on directly to successful careers, while others have opted to continue their education in four-year institutions.
ED Secretary Betsy DeVos was impressed with the program’s success during a recent visit to Florida, noting a great example at Valencia College in Kissimmee. “The dual-enrollment and advanced manufacturing programs are creating impressive opportunities for students,” she emphasized.
While visiting the school, DeVos spoke with two aspiring doctors who said the dual enrollment program helped shorten the time they would need to spend attaining their goals. During a roundtable discussion another student told her that she will have almost completed her freshman year of college by the time she graduates from high school. Another said that participating in the program will help save her parents money for college tuition.
“We’ve seen an increasing number of students participate over the years,” said Todd Clark, director of the Office of Articulation. “Dual enrollment is something that schools get incentives for — financial incentives for teachers and accountability incentives for having students in acceleration programs. As the programs continue to grow, we look carefully at how we manage the program and closely monitor student outcomes.”
Clark says the program is growing because the schools are doing a good job spreading the word, and the program is successful, which is then spread by word of mouth. This translates into support from local taxpayers who see the value.
The program is offered to students from 6th grade through their senior year. “The challenge is to make sure that students take dual enrollment classes that will really help them, versus something that they are just interested in,” Clark said.
To be eligible for the dual enrollment program, a student must go to a Florida public, private or home school and not graduate prior to completing the course. For students pursuing the career option, a 2.0 GPA is required and for those planning to enroll in college credit courses, the requirement is a 3.0 GPA. There is no minimum GPA for home-schooled students. Students must also take a basic skills examination to participate.
There are hundreds of course offerings for students in virtually all career types, including public safety, clerical, technology, HVAC, media production, service industry, automotive, health sciences and more. Courses are offered year-round on the school campus, local career education centers and the local higher education sites. The dual enrollment classes, books and fees for the public postsecondary institutions are paid for by the school district and are free for students.
ED has research on the effectiveness of dual enrollment programs, which shows its value. Students and the public have attested to the value of the Florida Dual Enrollment Program and the choice it gives to students in pursuit of higher education.
Helen Littlejohn is a public affairs specialist in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.