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An increasing number of high school students are preparing for college by participation in dual enrollment programs where eligible students have the opportunity to earn college credit while satisfying high school graduation requirements.  The good news is that homeschoolers in all fifty states are eligible for dual enrollment programs.  The catch is that eligibility requirements (possibly including SAT or ACT scores), costs and application processes vary from state-to-state so it is of utmost importance to be sure you are up-to-speed regarding your state and local school district requirements.

What is Dual Enrollment?

“Dual enrollment” is just what it sounds like – enrolling in two programs at once.  Dual enrollment programs are also known as “dual credit,” “concurrent enrollment,” and “joint enrollment.”  Many states have tagged the program with individualized titles such as “Early College Enrollment Program (ECEP), “Postsecondary Enrollment Options,” and “Running Start.”  Some states have multiple programs that all fall under the dual enrollment concept. (Examples:  Indiana has three programs: the Postsecondary Enrollment Program; Double Up for College; and Fast Track to College.)  While program titles may vary, the concept is the same – public, private and homeschool students have the opportunity to earn college credit while satisfying their high school graduation program’s required course.  The credits students earn in the program count to satisfy both their high school graduation requirements and apply towards a college degree or vocational certification.

In some states, homeschool students are eligible for free tuition in dual enrollment programs.  In other states, homeschool students must pay the going per-credit rate or tuition at the participating community college or state university.  In most states, participating students are required to maintain a 3.0 GPA in either a public school or home school in order to enroll in college credit courses while students with a 2.0 GPA can enroll in vocational certificate classes.  Yet other states require that any college-level courses to be included in dual enrollment programs must be approved by the State Board of Education.

Who Can Participate in Dual Enrollment?

 Dual enrollment programs are generally available to high school students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades but, in rare circumstances, younger students are admitted based on an excellent academic record or above-average entrance test scores.  (Georgia allows students to dual enroll as early as the 9th grade.)  Most dual enrollment programs consist of partnerships with local community colleges while others are linked to state colleges and occasionally are available through private colleges.  The key is to research your state’s dual enrollment policies, find out which colleges in your state participate in the program, be sure your student can meet the eligibility requirements, and be prepared to pay for at least textbooks and supplies while remembering that some colleges require homeschool students to pay tuition and/or per-credit fees.  In other words – tuition MAY OR MAY NOT be paid for by your state if your student is not enrolled in a public school because funds for dual enrollment programs are most commonly moved from the state, through public high schools, and onto the participating college.

What to Consider Regarding Dual Enrollment?

When considering dual enrollment for your homeschool student, do not make the decision based solely on financial information.  Some students will save money and others will not.  The difference is based on the kinds of courses the student signs up for and the type of college chosen by the student for dual enrollment purposes.  Dual enrollment is a great option for homeschooled high school students who are interested in attending a public college in their own state.  Some states allow dual enrollment credits to be used only at state universities so, if your student is considering a private college, the credits may not be transferable.  While dual enrollment is generally open to homeschoolers, participating schools do have the option of selecting which students they wish to accept into their program.

Overall, dual enrollment credits provide an excellent way for your homeschooled student to experience an academic challenge as they prepare for college-level work.  Dual credit studies show up impressively on a high school transcript and can increase a student’s overall GPA making them more able to compete for scholarships and grants.  But remember – although most states offer some form of dual enrollment program, it’s imperative that you, as a homeschool parent, know what the enrollment rules are in your state, how your state counts dual enrollment credits and whether the credits are actually free to homeschooled students or require tuition payment.

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