How To Pick The Best Dual Credit Program

Dual credit programs offer a wonderful opportunity for high school students to get an early start on their college careers.

These programs train instructors to bring college-level courses to high schoolers, allowing students to get a head start on their college credits along with a preview of college-level demands. There are 93 accredited dual credit programs around the country, and while all have their own strengths, some offerings stand out more than others.

Here are some things to consider when selecting a dual credit program:

1. Is the dual credit program is accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Programs?

Why it matters: A program that is accredited by the only accrediting body in the nation speaks volumes about what a given program accomplishes. NACEP has worked for years to create nationalized standards that weigh a dual credit program’s authenticity, commitment, support, and rigor. To be an accredited member of NACEP is a token of pride, as becoming a member involves an intense process and requires programs to be transparent about what they do. This accreditation process also brings together dual credit peers to stringently review programs’ strengths as well as areas in which they need to improve.

2. How many courses does the program offer to its students?

Why it matters: A strong dual credit program will offer its high school participants a diverse catalogue of courses for college credit. The goal of dual credit education is to give qualified students a head start on their college careers. If an institution only offers a few courses, the likelihood of a student making substantial progress on her undergraduate career is limited. If, however, the institution offers a variety of course options that fulfill core requirements as well as electives at universities, then the student will save time and money upon matriculating.

3. How many secondary partners does the institution work with?

Why it matters: For dual credit to be effective, a college or university needs to be able to recruit secondary schools and maintain strong partnerships with them. Another goal of dual credit education is to create a collegiate environment for the exchange of ideas and resources between higher education and secondary education. Additionally, a larger pool of partner high schools means a larger population of students who will have access to the dual credit opportunities. If a program partners with one or two high schools, only a handful of students will benefit.

4. What are the eligibility requirements relating to testing of GPA?

Why it matters: Dual credit programs should hold students to the same standards as on-campus courses. These classes are meant to emulate a college experience. Therefore, students need to exhibit the maturity and rigor to take on a college course in high school. One way to measure a student’s aptitude and ability to commit to this rigor is by having a mandated eligibility requirement based on GPA or standardized test scores.

5. How much is the tuition?

Why it matters: Dual credit is meant to be an affordable option to help increase access to college. The tuition rate for dual credit classes should be drastically lower than it is for on-campus courses. The cost per credit hour is an important factor when looking the affordability of higher education. Some institutions charge the school district, which allows the credit to be free to students, but  some will charge students’ families for the tuition. Either way, someone is paying for the credit, and the cost per credit hour should be considered as a means to measure the program’s feasibility and benefit to students and families.

Final Thoughts

These are good criteria to start your list of finding the best dual credit programs. It is, however, just a place to start your search — families should still research their options and utilize some of these questions to guide their decisions. There are many great programs out there. One only needs to start looking and asking to find out what will be the best fit.