Report recommends eliminating dual enrollment tuition, fees for high schools

Governor to announce dual enrollment plan Thursday

By: - December 14, 2022 12:02 am

J. Sargent Reynolds Community College in Henrico. (NBC12)

Virginia’s legislative watchdog commission is recommending policymakers consider eliminating tuition and fees for public high school students who enroll simultaneously in community college courses.

The change could improve access for economically disadvantaged students interested in the state’s Dual Enrollment Program, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission concluded in a report released Monday.

Data collected by JLARC indicates that all community colleges and most school divisions have sufficient state and local funding to cover the program’s expenses. Last year, community colleges each received an average of $2.2 million in state general funds and collected an average of $1.7 million in revenue after covering all of their dual enrollment expenses.

The study resulted from JLARC Subject Topic Selection Subcommittee members expressing concern about higher education affordability, student debt and variable costs for dual enrollment across the commonwealth in November 2021.

“I’ve had concerns addressed to me from constituents over the years, and it’s really nice to see that we should be able to bring some parity and some closure,” said Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt, at Monday’s presentation. “The people that are suffering the most are the students who don’t have the ability [and] their parents [who] do not have the ability to pay, and they should not be affected in that way in the commonwealth.”

The total number of students participating in dual enrollment has grown over the past decade, according to a Dec. 12 report released by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

Participation in the Dual Enrollment Program, which allows students to earn college credits before graduating high school, has increased by 54% since the 2012-13 school year, according to JLARC. Approximately 42,000 students took one or more dual enrollment courses during the 2021-22 school year, with most courses taught on high school campuses.

The study was conducted in conjunction with an earlier review of Virginia’s financial aid policies and practices that focused on non-career and technical education dual enrollment courses. That study also found community colleges have substantially more state funds than needed to cover program expenses, while school divisions have sufficient state and local funding for dual enrollment. Most expenses consist of personnel costs and are five times higher for school divisions than community colleges.

Impact of eliminating fees

Researchers said eliminating tuition and fees charged by colleges to school divisions for student participation in the program would save schools approximately $81,000 per year. 

Currently, most school divisions absorb the costs of student participation. Costs can change depending on the program’s size and staff, but on average divisions pay around $200 in tuition costs for each student taking three courses of three credit hours each.

Other school divisions partially absorb tuition and fee costs while passing on the remainder to the students themselves. 

Colleges with the highest tuition and fees are in the northern and eastern regions. Tuition rates ranged from $1.50 to $46.50 per credit hour. 

On Dec. 12, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission published a chart on how dual enrollment expenses are split among colleges, school divisions and students.

Sharon Morrissey, interim chancellor for the Virginia Community College System, said in a Dec. 6 letter to JLARC that community colleges share the interest in expanding access to the Dual Enrollment Program. However, she expressed concern that the recommendations only apply to community colleges and not other public institutions of higher education.

Morrissey said the recommendations, if adopted, could financially impact other students.

“The elimination of these fees for dual enrollment students would shift the burden to exclusively non-dual enrollment students, thus likely causing an increase in mandatory fees to non-dual enrollment students,” Morrissey wrote.

If lawmakers decide to do away with tuition and fees for high school students, JLARC proposed that the General Assembly consider appropriating $6.2 million to replace the lost revenue for colleges. Lawmakers could also provide funds for grants to school divisions that demonstrate the need for financial assistance for their dual enrollment programs, the commission noted.

Addressing teacher shortages

JLARC also found that providing annual bonuses for high school teachers who teach dual enrollment courses could address shortages of qualified educators in such programs.

According to Monday’s report, the number of credentialed dual enrollment teachers dropped by 7% from the 2018-19 school year to 2021-22, which could limit the courses school divisions are able to offer. 

Virginia’s K-12 school system is also feeling the pinch of losing teachers. Data from a previous JLARC report indicated that 10,900 teachers left the workforce ahead of the current school year, while only 7,208 first-time licensed teachers were hired. 

Researchers also proposed additional funding to pay community college faculty to teach dual enrollment courses at high schools that lack sufficient credentialed teachers in their geographic area.

Youngkin to announce dual enrollment plan Thursday

On Thursday, Gov. Glenn Youngkin is expected to announce in his budget proposal funding for multiple dual enrollment acceleration programs, which would allow students the opportunity to graduate with an industry-recognized credential or two-year associate’s degree.

He said in October that “this is a big moment for Virginia to chart a new path that we recognize that our high school students are the future and we need to help them be prepared to take that future.”

Macaulay Porter, a spokeswoman for the governor, did not directly answer a question about whether the plan will require every student to have an industry credential to graduate.


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Nathaniel Cline
Nathaniel Cline

Nathaniel is an award-winning journalist who's been covering news across the country since 2007, including politics at The Loudoun Times-Mirror and The Northern Neck News in Virginia as well as sports for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. He has also hosted podcasts, worked as a television analyst for Spectrum Sports, and appeared as a panelist for conferences and educational programs. A graduate of Bowie State University, Nathaniel grew up in Hawaii and the United Kingdom as a military brat. Five things he must have before leaving home: his cellphone, Black Panther water bottle, hand sanitizer, wedding ring and Philadelphia Eagles keychain.