How Dual Enrollment Courses Can Cut Down on College Costs

Studies show that students who earn college credit in high school are more likely to continue their education after graduation.

Studies show that students who earn college credit in high school are more likely to continue their education after graduation.

It’s no surprise that for many students and parents who are thinking about what’s next after high school, how to pay for college is a concern that’s firmly top of mind. The thought of taking out loans and incurring debt can make the college decision-making process challenging and stressful for families. Fortunately, by planning ahead and taking advantage of dual enrollment programs, such as the ACCELERATE program that Troy University (TROY) offers, families can save money on college costs and even accelerate a student’s path to an associate or bachelor’s degree.

How Does Dual Enrollment Work?

With dual enrollment, a student is enrolled in two academic institutions, such as high school and college, at the same time. The credits earned at the higher institution can apply to both the college or university and the high school degree requirements. (It should be noted that many high schools offer “dual enrollment courses” taught at the high school for college credit but that are not necessarily taught by college faculty. These are different from programs such as TROY’s that offer college-level classes taught by the University faculty and open for enrollment to high school students.)

Korrie Lynn James
Korrie Lynn James

The dual enrollment program at TROY has been giving students a taste of college since 2014. According to Korrie Lynn James, the Coordinator of Dual Enrollment and Transfer Recruiting at TROY, “The word ‘dual’ in dual enrollment specifically means we want students to do the work they have to do at the high school and college levels — but we don’t want them to have to do that twice.”

An example of this would be an upper secondary English class in high school required for a high school diploma, and English 1101, an equivalent commonly required course at the freshman college level for most majors. “Instead of taking that class in high school and then again in college,” James says, “if a student takes the class just once at the college level, they’re getting that dual credit — both on their high school transcript and on their college transcript.”

Brady Barr is currently both a Goshen High School and a Troy University student participating in dual enrollment. He is in the Pike County School System’s Academy program. The program partners with TROY’s ACCELERATE program for the STEM Academy and allows students to graduate high school with both a high school diploma and an associate degree from TROY.

 “Through the program, I have been able to learn these upper-level maths and sciences much sooner than I would have been able to if I had not chosen dual enrollment at TROY,” Barr says.

Are Advanced Placement (AP) Courses Similar to Dual Enrollment Courses?

With AP courses, a high school student completes coursework, receives grades throughout the class and gets a final grade at the end of the course. In addition, the student also has to take an AP exam. It’s the score on the AP exam that determines whether a student may get college credit. Since colleges and universities have different score thresholds to grant credit based on the AP exam, students have to research to figure out if the college or university they are considering will give them credit for any AP exam they take. 

That means the student could do well in class all semester long and then do poorly, or not as well as they’d like, on the AP exam, and as a result, fail to receive college credit for all of their hard work.

James explains that when a student takes a college-level course at TROY through the ACCELERATE program, the student knows how well they’re doing in that class throughout the term or semester. Not all TROY classes have finals, although most do, but the final exam grade generally isn’t a make-or-break situation for receiving college credit for the class.

“The biggest comparison is that with AP, the student is taking a chance of getting college credit depending on how well they do on their AP exam and where they want to go to college,” explains James. “With dual enrollment, they can monitor their success throughout the course and receive credit for the course — not necessarily depending on any final exam score.”

Who Is Eligible for the Dual Enrollment Program at TROY?

Eligibility for the TROY program is straightforward.

High school sophomores, juniors and seniors from private and public regionally accredited high schools, as well as home-schooled students, are eligible if they have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 as well as a minimum score of 20 on the ACT, 1030 on the SAT or a recommendation letter from a high school counselor.

James explains, “A letter of recommendation from a school counselor states the student is academically prepared to take part in an academically challenging class at the college level.” The recommendation letter is the most common supplemental item that’s turned in by high school sophomores applying to TROY’s dual enrollment program simply because, James says, students in the tenth grade haven’t usually taken the ACT or SAT yet.

Eleventh and twelfth-grade students generally submit SAT or ACT scores because they have taken the tests and because placement into college-level English and mathematics courses is based on those scores.

Students who are accepted into the ACCELERATE program based on a letter of recommendation may not be eligible to take either English or mathematics at the college level since they don’t have a placement SAT or ACT score on file. However, TROY offers an opportunity to qualify through an ACT placement exam. James says, “It’s not a common thing that students do though; they typically just start taking classes aside from English or mathematics and once they have a score on file, we’ll use that to actually place them into the classes.”

What Are the Time-Related Savings of Being a Dual Enrollment Student at TROY?

Time saved by participating in the dual enrollment program at TROY can vary depending on the individual student and the classes they take. In the TROY program, students can take one, two or three classes, starting as early as their sophomore year in high school. It is quite feasible for a student who starts dual enrollment courses while a sophomore in high school to achieve an associate degree by the time they graduate high school, “saving” two years of college.

Depending on the individual course a student takes, it could fall within a term or a semester. Classes offered specifically at the Troy, Alabama campus are semester-based: August through December, January through May, and an intensive May to July. Courses at all other Alabama campuses, as well as all online classes, are offered in nine-week terms.

Many students are eager to get ahead, but James encourages them to be cautious about taking on too heavy a workload. “I have a hard conversation with students about taking too many classes to start. I always recommend they start with one and if they feel comfortable, then take two, then maybe three,” James says. It’s a significant time commitment, she says, but a lot of students such as home-schooled students and students who may not be as involved in high school extracurricular activities, tend to take three classes.

What Is the One Critical Skill Students Need to Succeed in the ACCELERATE Program?

Time management is a skill students need not just for dual enrollment, but throughout their lives and careers. If they master the skill early on, it can pay huge dividends at college and on the job later on.

“I certainly think that kids who take part in dual enrollment are higher-achieving students who are striving for an A,” says James. “They won’t settle for a C, so they quickly learn the hands-on of time management because they want to do well in the classes.”

James tells students that time management will be critical in college, where being more independent carries with it an extra level of responsibility. “I point out that in a college class they aren’t required to show up or log in at a particular time. They can do the work or not do the work, but their grade will reflect their effort,” she says. “Students have to figure out if they work better at 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. and if they have to work around extracurricular activities. I talk to them about mapping out their time each week to be successful. It’s fun to see, too, that once a student passes their first dual-credit class — once they see they can do college-level work — their mindset changes as they realize  they are college material.”

That has been the experience for dual enrollment student, Barr.  “Because the college classes are more difficult than the high school classes that I was taking side-by-side, I had to adapt to having to study harder and more often. Overall, this was a very good thing for me because it improved my performance in both college and high school courses.”

How Do High School Students Fit College Courses Into Their Days?

If a student lives near a TROY campus and a course they want is available at a time when they can attend on campus, then that specific course time has to be figured into their school schedule.

“If the student isn’t close to a campus, or they don’t want to attend in person, the most popular route for taking courses is online classes, which are mostly self-paced [asynchronous],” says James. “The online course option allows students the freedom of completing the coursework when they have available time, which could be before, during or after school.”

Who Teaches the ACCELERATE Program’s Classes?

The quality of the faculty is an additional plus that makes TROY’s program stand out for students. “TROY’s certified faculty teach the dual enrollment courses,” says James. “We have teachers who crave and want to have these high school students in their classes. Students from all over the United States take part in TROY’s dual enrollment program, so classes are definitely diverse in every aspect. But courses are always taught by a professor who is certified to teach for TROY.”

How Do Students Interact With Faculty and Classmates During Online Classes?

Interaction with classmates and instructors is different for each class depending on the course material and how each instructor personalizes interactions.

“For the courses I teach, it’s an open-door policy,” says James. “If students ever have questions, not only can they email, call or come in and meet with me, but typically there’s also a discussion board within the Canvas shell, the learning platform where they take online classes. They can ask any questions they have, so there’s a lot of communication, just virtually.”

Some professors tend to rely on email; some have a student lounge built into the Canvas shell to field any questions students may have. For all courses, professors typically are available for a meeting with the student. James notes that with the world today, it’s easy to have a video call through all the different communication methods that TROY uses. “All professors make sure they are able to communicate and facilitate conversations with their students through video calls,” James says.

What are the Financial Cost Savings of Dual Enrollment at TROY?

The savings offered by the dual enrollment program are substantial for students and families wondering how to pay for college. TROY offers a 58% tuition credit discount for students who take part in the ACCELERATE program.

“Instead of paying $325 per credit hour that most of our students pay, ACCELERATE students pay a flat rate of $145 per credit hour,” says James. “Traditionally enrolled TROY students pay about $1,000 per class; dual enrollment students pay $435 per class for a three-credit hour course — which is more than $500 less per three-credit course. So with respect to cost, it’s saving an exceptional amount of money.”

Dual enrollment students benefit both from the deep tuition discount and from not being charged any registration or department-associated fees. One caveat: financial aid is not available for dual enrollment students while they are still in high school; once they graduate high school and go on to TROY, they are eligible to apply for financial aid like all undergraduate students. 

Why Should Students Choose TROY for the Dual Enrollment Program?

The ACCELERATE program is flexible enough to fit into any busy schedule and offers a multitude of benefits for schools, students and families.
The ACCELERATE program is flexible enough to fit into any busy schedule and offers a multitude of benefits for schools, students and families.

“Speaking for TROY overall — but also from personal experience as a two-time TROY graduate who hopes to graduate a third time in the coming years — being treated as a name here and not a number makes a huge difference,” says James. (James holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in adult education from TROY. She hopes soon to enter TROY’S new Global Leadership Ph.D. program.)

“It’s so easy to get lost or overlooked at a college or university, especially coming in as a high school student; but as I mentioned earlier, some of our professors really want to have high school students in their class because they are some of our best students. They are the students who have parents and counselors and other people, like me, cheering them on and rooting for them to be successful. It’s not only impacting their lives now, but it has such an enormous impact on their lives later on.”

That emphasis on making college a personal experience carries through for all TROY students. “The biggest thing about TROY is that not only are our undergraduate, graduate-level students and doctoral students known for who they are instead of being just a number, the same is true for our dual enrollment high school students also.”

How Early Should Students Start the Application Process for the ACCELERATE Program at TROY?

TROY has a tentative deadline for dual enrollment applications, but the University tries to work with any student’s individual situation once they are aware of a student’s intent to start classes.

Applications should be submitted with the required items (recommendation letter or ACT or SAT scores and the transcript showing a 3.0 or higher GPA) and students should schedule an Admissions conversation with James or her office at least two weeks before an intent to start TROY classes. The conference-based discussion centers around a student’s interests as well as how to balance college coursework with their high school courses. “The earlier, the better, of course,” James says. “As these are usually high-achieving students, deadlines are on their radar. They want to get things taken care of and get things marked off their list.”

Once accepted into TROY’s ACCELERATE program, classes are offered on a rolling admissions basis, so students can start in any term or semester. “Students don’t have to start dual enrollment courses in their sophomore year,” says James. “They can take classes just in their senior year if they want to, it’s completely up to them.”

How Is Success Measured for Students in Dual Enrollment Courses?

TROY faculty is actively involved in the success of ACCELERATE students, and during the application process, the high school counselor and/or the student’s parents are involved in planning discussions about the classes that students need to take. “We discuss what the student has already taken and what they need to take that can go towards their high school transcript, if that’s what they want. There are cases where, as an example, a student may take a psychology course but they don’t necessarily need that course for high school credit — many students look at the dual enrollment courses more for college credit in connection to a certain degree they aspire to attain.”

Once the student finishes a dual credit class, the professor reports that grade to James who then shares the grade with the student. If the student is homeschooled, they are advised to share the result with their parents. If the student is in private or public school, they need to share the grade with their principal or guidance counselor in order to get the grade on their high school transcript, if applicable.

Barr is finishing his associate degree in general education with a focus on STEM and is set to graduate in 2021. He plans to continue studying at Troy University to pursue a degree in the 3D Printing for Art and Industry program.

Saving on College While Getting the College Experience

TROY’S ACCELERATE dual enrollment program offers financial savings on the cost of a college education, but just as important, students truly get to experience college with faculty and others who care about their success as much as they do.

“Dual enrollment courses give students that little taste of college. If students give TROY a try, I believe they are going to fall in love, just like I did,” says James. “If they go to another institution or a larger institution, they can get lost in the crowd or looked at as high school students — even if they are sitting in a college course. At TROY, we love our students and want to see each one of them be successful.” 

Barr advises students considering the dual enrollment program to be prepared to go the extra mile when it comes to how hard they try in their education. “Even though the courses that you take at the University will be difficult,” he adds, “it will all be worth it in the end. It is a perfect opportunity to prove your academic mettle in the face of adversity.”

To learn more about getting college credits while still in high school, please visit the ACCELERATE dual enrollment program page on our website