Access, affordability and high standards

Berry’s accelerated progress is a result of her participation in a co-enrollment course offered by her high school and CSU Pueblo. Beginning in 9th grade and increasingly throughout her high school years, she took college courses that counted towards both her high school diploma and her college degree. By the time she started full-time college that fall, she already had the credits to earn her high school diploma, and her high school and the state had paid for her tuition and much of her dues.

Options for earning high school and college credits simultaneously, commonly known as dual matriculation programs, are proliferating both across the state and throughout the CSU system. Becky Takeda-Tinker, the CSU system’s chief educational and operations innovation officer, and Roze Hentschell, the system’s interim chief academic officer, are leading efforts to coordinate the system’s three campuses and maximize student choice.

“The point here is that the CSU system expands our service to high school students to help them earn college credits and become proficient in college-level courses while they are in high school,” said Takeda Tinker. “As we expand this work, the potential in terms of reducing college costs and college success is significant.”

A menu of options

According to a 2021 report by the Colorado Department of Higher Education, 53,245 high school students enrolled in one or more dual matriculation courses in the 2019-2020 academic year, a 5.6% increase from the previous year. That equates to 20% of students enrolled in high school this year, and nearly 40% are taking at least one dual course sometime in grades 9 through 12, the report finds.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, in the 2021-2022 school year, Colorado had 280,613 students distributed across 522 high schools operated by the state’s 178 school districts. Meeting the dual enrollment needs of these students and their respective schools and districts requires a flexible approach and range of options, Takeda-Tinker explained.

The future of dual enrollment across the CSU system will include a collaborative effort to create that menu, Hentschell said. “The system’s campuses already have a range of options for high school students, and we can learn a lot from each other as we focus on expanding access and creating new opportunities.”

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In Fort Collins, CSU offers dual on-campus enrollment through a partnership with the Poudre School District, while the CSU Extended Campus offers a growing number of through partnerships with a growing network of schools and districts in Larimer and Weld counties, Denver Online and hybrid options offers metro area and elsewhere.

Extended Campus offerings span CSU colleges and include more than 30 courses on subjects ranging from horticultural science and biomedical engineering to financial accounting and design thinking. While dual matriculation courses offered at many of the state’s colleges and universities give students the opportunity to take core courses, Extended Campus also offers more specialized options.

“We all do something that impacts our high school population and makes a difference for students and communities,” said Brandi Gonzales, CSU Extended Campus relationship manager for high school and community college partnerships. Extended Campus, she explained, aims to offer courses that allow students to explore their interests and perhaps embark on an academic path that they will continue to pursue.

While students and families don’t pay tuition for “concurrent enrollment” courses — the state requires, among other things, that such courses be eligible for use of College Opportunity Fund (COF) scholarships — the cost of other dual enrollments varies by institution and details of agreements with a particular school or district. A policy change in 2021 that reduced tuition for dual-enrolled students at the CSU Extended Campus to $153.35 per credit, the same rate charged by community colleges, fell with a rapid increase in enrollments of 50 students in 2020-2021 to 118 in 2021-2022 combined and more than 200 this year.

And 24% of those who matriculated twice in the past academic year matriculated at the CSU in the fall.

The specialized offers of the CSU Extended Campus supplement the offers of the other system campuses. At CSU Global, the focus is on delivering customizable online courses—typically 8 or 13 weeks in length—that meet the needs of partner school districts and their students. In most cases, students who achieve a C or higher in these courses can tick off a Guaranteed Transfer (GT) Pathways requirement, which applies to associate degrees and most bachelor’s degrees at all Colorado public colleges and universities.

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Although CSU Global is its most active partnership involving Denver Public Schools, it ministered to more than 400 students during the 2020-2021 school year.

“We’re very passionate about what we do and we work hard to be a good partner,” said Dawn Roller, senior director of corporate engagement at CSU Global.

Part of this strength comes from CSU Global’s infrastructure as an online public university. School districts can select the course length and format that is right for their students, and students then have access to 24-hour academic success advisors and technical support. In addition, CSU Global offers online upskilling programs for high school teachers to enable them to earn the necessary master’s level credits needed to teach dual and concurrent courses.

Find the right way

Flexibility and strong partnerships also define CSU Pueblo’s approach in working to provide dual enrollment opportunities for both students living near campus and those attending far-flung high schools across the state and specifically visit in southern Colorado.

This year, nearly 150 high school students in CSU Pueblo are attending on-campus classes, just as Berry did. For students further afield, the university offers online options as well as its senior-to-sophomore program, a distinctive dual-enrollment approach that works with schools to offer college instruction in their own classrooms, run by their own teachers be taught.

Kristyn White Davis, vice president of enrollment management and advanced studies at CSU Pueblo, said one simple question guided the development of these options: “What is the right path for each student?”

For students who live and attend school miles from a college or university, the Sophomore-to-Senior program offers an easy route. Department heads at CSU Pueblo assess whether teachers have the preparation to teach college classes in their subject — often a master’s degree or higher, but sometimes as little as 18 credit hours of graduate courses — and can then grant approval. Teachers are then authorized to teach CSU Pueblo classes in their classrooms.

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And for teachers who don’t yet have the preparation needed to teach at the collegiate level, CSU Pueblo is working to connect them to relevant undergraduate and graduate courses.

School districts often cover tuition for dual enrollment students. In other cases, teachers and other community members find ways to make things happen.

White Davis recalled a teacher who taught a dual-enrollment chemistry department at a small Huerfano County school for years before many districts and the state focused on reducing the financial burden.

The teacher may only have four students in his class at a time, White Davis said, and it turns out he covered their tuition, determined to remove a potential barrier while sending the message, “You’re going to be in a college class.” “

In addition to economic and geographical barriers, students can be prevented from pursuing higher education for a number of personal reasons. White Davis said one goal in offering a wide range of dual enrollment options is to open the door to as many high school students as possible to understand what college is all about.

“We want them to be able to see themselves as college students,” she said.

Each year, thousands of Colorado students find this opportunity through dual matriculation courses, whether to supplement busy high school class schedules or to begin courses that would otherwise have to be taken as part of a major.

Berry, who is preparing to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the age of 19, admits her rapid progress may be unusual.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult,” she said. But with her goal of becoming a psychiatrist always in mind, she could see how each step in the process brought her closer to being able to do the work she was drawn to, even as a 7-year-old.

For high school students considering taking college-level courses, Berry offers a simple message about whether the plan is to take one course or multiple courses.

“I think anyone who is willing to work hard can do it,” she said.