INA, Ill. – A program put in place at Rend Lake College just more than a decade ago has racked up savings of roughly $5,000,000 for area high school students and their families.
At the turn of the millennium, RLC administrators innovated the way local students prepared for college. It’s called dual credit. The program brings college curriculum to the high school classroom by fusing faculty from each level of learning. What started as a pilot program at four area high schools in 2000 has multiplied into programming at every school in RLC’s district.
“High school students taking college courses isn’t unique,” said RLC President Charley D. Holstein. “What does make our dual credit program stand out is that Rend Lake College waives all the tuition and fees for the high school student. It’s quite a deal. You can’t get a college education at a better price than that!”
In Fiscal Year 2011 (July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011), 3,261 students enrolled in 8,895 total RLC dual credit hours for a savings of $ 922,848.45. That is more than 25 times the number of students in FY2001. And high schools on board since the start has tripled. Students saved more than $1,000,000 each year from 2008-2010. Overall, approximately 25,000 local students have taken about 60,000 credit hours for a savings of roughly $5,000,000.
RLC Dual Credit Coordinator Jason Swann said the word is definitely out, but that the terminology can be confusing.
“It’s not a secret, but it can be confusing for students and parents when you are talking about dual credit versus dual enrollment,” said Swann. “Dual credit courses are college-level courses offered to high school students during their regular high school day. Dual enrollment courses, on the other hand, are college courses offered to the high school students that must be taken at a Rend Lake College campus. Dual enrollment classes are usually during evening hours or in the summer so it doesn’t conflict with their regular high school schedule. Also, there is a fee for dual enrollment.”
Swann visits each high school and registers students on site. Starting spring semester 2011, dual credit awareness letters were mailed from Swann’s office to every high school student in RLC’s district.
“I also think our high schools do a very good job of promoting dual credit and have been successful with working it into their curriculum,” he said.
Participation is down slightly – about 700 students – from FY2010 to FY2011, according to Swann.
“The numbers are probably down a little bit because of the Dual Credit Quality Act (HB1079), which now limits dual credit and dual enrollment offerings to juniors and seniors, or those who are at least 16 years old.”
Holstein said the legislation was needed and will provide tools the college wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“House Bill 1079 became law in January of last year,” Holstein explained. “It established standards for dual credit that I believe reinforced what we were already doing at RLC. [The law] also defined the oversight, review and reporting responsibilities for the college, the Illinois Community College Board, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education. That is good because it creates a place for our assessments to be used and provides us a look at how other institutions are doing with their dual credit programming.”