When the class of 2019 graduated from high school earlier this summer, many of the students received more than a diploma; thanks to dual credit classes, they’re leaving with college credit, too.
Dual credit classes provide students with the potential to earn high school and college credit at the same time. By earning credits before graduating high school, students are able to save both time and money on their chosen education pathway. Research also shows that students who take dual credit classes are also more likely to enroll, persist in, and graduate from college after high school.
However, that credit usually does not come without a cost. Even if a student is qualified to take an advanced class, if they can’t afford to pay for the exam or course fees associated with that class, they may not get the college credit they’ve earned.
That’s why Bethel School District, just south of Tacoma, announced this summer that they will be paying for the Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT/ACT fees for every single one of their students.
Bethel’s assistant superintendent of secondary schools, Jennifer Betheman, told the Seattle Times in July: “We have a large population (of students) who can’t afford to pay for all of their AP classes, so this is to try and level the playing field. If we take away that barrier, we hope that more students are ready to take the challenge.”
AP courses are one of several dual credit options that most students have access to in Washington high schools. Other exam-based programs include International Baccalaureate and Cambridge International. Course-based dual credit programs (where a student is also enrolled concurrently in college courses) include Running Start, College in the High School, and Career and Technical Education dual credit.
At Stand for Children, we believe that a student’s family income should not determine which courses they can take or the future of their academic career. Our commitment to equity in education is why we fought to pass statewide Academic Acceleration in 2019, a law which ensures that every school district in Washington will automatically enroll students who pass their statewide assessment in math, english/language arts, or science into the next most rigorous course in that subject. For the schools who have already implemented an academic acceleration policy, we’ve seen a huge uptick in the numbers of underrepresented students of color being enrolled in the advanced classes they’re qualified for.
However, not every school district is like Bethel, which means that if a student can’t afford to pay their test or course fees, they may not get the credit they were hoping for. For students who receive Free & Reduced Price Lunch, there is currently a statewide program to waive the test fee - each student who is interested needs to talk to their counselor about how to apply.
Although we were able to successfully achieve Academic Acceleration in 2019, our work is not done. In addition to ensuring that districts around the state have the support they need to implement this policy, we are also continuing to advocate for programs that reduce the financial burden on Washington families for their children’s dual credit classes. While we’re excited about the steps that districts like Bethel are taking, we are determined to keep fighting until every student in Washington has access to an equitable education.
Want to join the fight? Join our team as a member of Stand for Children and we’ll connect you with your local and statewide lawmakers to advocate for Washington’s students.
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