The inaugural conference of Illinois Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (ILACEP) – the Illinois State Chapter of NACEP took place on Friday April 22, 2016. It was an exciting, interactive event that brought together dual credit professionals at all levels, including high schools, community colleges, universities, Education for Employment Centers/Regional Programs, as well as state and national organizations around a shared mission of building high school-college partnerships that accelerate and diversify student pathways to postsecondary education.
The meeting highlighted presentations and updates from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Programs (NACEP), and the Ohio State Chapter of NACEP (OADEP), District 202, and ILACEP. OCCRL graduate research assistant John Lang and I presented the At the Crossroad of Access and Opportunity: Funding and Dual Credit Participation in Illinois, highlighting an exploratory study led by Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher that examined programs and policies relative to dual credit access, opportunity, and cost for underserved student populations in Illinois.
In light of the current state budge crisis, there were concerns regarding the potential impact of the fiscal climate on dual credit programs across the state of Illinois. Ms. Whitney Hagy announced ICCB’s new rule that would only allow juniors and seniors to claim tuition reimbursement, so freshmen and sophomores who are academically qualified and who want to take dual credit courses will soon need to pay tuition. Shifts in who pays and how much it will cost to participate in dual credit are playing out in Illinois, meanwhile the state of Ohio is making dual credit free for all public school students in grades 7-12 and mandating all public colleges/universities and public school districts to offer dual credit. According to Mr. Tim Dorsey, President of OADEP, the statewide program called College Credit Plus allows dual credit students to bear no cost for tuition, books, or fees.
The long-standing discussions around the issue of teacher credentialing were prominent at the ILACEP Summit. Mr. Dorsey shared Ohio’s $10 million dollar plan to help high school teachers earn appropriate credentials to teach dual credit (i.e., a master’s degree in the discipline taught or a master’s of any type and 18 graduate hours in the course subject area). Meanwhile, Illinois practitioners emphasized the need for institution-wide teacher support (e.g., flexible teaching/coaching schedule, make summer graduate courses available, etc.) that would allow teachers to pursue these educational opportunities. The bottom line: Policies that help to broaden dual credit participation and smooth the path to postsecondary education by underserved students in low-income communities must account for the entire early-college ecosystem, rather than solving one particular student challenge in a silo.
Teacher incentives were discussed and considered one barrier to teacher credentialing and broadening student participation. Mr. Glenn Wood, Assistant Superintendent of District 202 and Ms. Gretchen Lohman from IBHE shared the P-20 Network Survey on dual credit that listed increased workload, no financial incentives, and financial cost of earning credentials as top three reasons of teacher barriers to meeting qualifications to teach general education dual credit courses. Moreover, when asked about what additional benefits teachers receive for teaching dual credit courses, half of the principals and teachers reported none.
Evidently, there is room for improvement at both state and local levels. We are thrilled that so many enthusiastic, committed collaborators from across the state and region came together for a day of rich dialogue geared to accelerate postsecondary opportunities. I believe ILACEP, under the leadership of Dr. Dave Naze, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Prairie State College will build on this momentum moving forward as a state chapter that provides resources to its practitioners and help shape the concurrent enrollment policy that benefit the changing needs of students in Illinois.