Guest columnist: Dual credit leads to improved college outcomes

Source: Great Falls Tribune

Montana’s high school students will have a wide variety of dual-credit classes available to them beginning in January.

The Montana Board of Regents have reduced the tuition for all dual credit and early college courses offered within the system to 50 percent of the local two-year college rate, or 50 percent of the local university unit rate in communities lacking a two-year institution (for example, communities such as Dillon or Havre). Charges therefore range between $60 and $80/per credit, with all other fees waived. Flathead Valley Community College has elected to waive all tuition.

Dual-credit courses are offered statewide in three formats: via online delivery through a partnership with the Montana Digital Academy and several of Montana’s two-year public and community colleges; in dual-credit courses that are offered at the local high schools; or through enrollment as early college students at a local two-year college or university.

Dual-credit courses include offerings from the Montana University System general education core, including communications, mathematics, natural science, social science and history, humanities and fine arts, and cultural diversity. Some additional dual-credit opportunities are available in career and technical subjects, such as medical terminology and accounting technology.

Local college and university curricula are used for all dual-credit courses, which are approved according to each institution’s course approval process.

What do we know about the benefits of enrolling in dual-credit courses?

Columbia University’s Community College Research Center released a paper earlier this year based on studies of dual-credit participants conducted in Florida, New York and California. The paper notes the following outcomes: “Participation in dual-credit courses while in high school is positively associated with improving the chances the high school student will enroll in college, have a higher GPA, and reduce the time it takes to complete a college credential.”

In addition, the researchers from Columbia University found participating in dual-credit programs may have higher benefits for groups who might normally struggle in college, particularly lower income and male students.

Which dual-credit courses student take make a significant difference. Researchers in Florida identified significant findings through their analysis of the outcomes for students who scored at or just above the minimum scores on a college placement test required for dual credit. Students who took college algebra through dual credit were 16 percentage points more likely to go to college and 23 percentage points more likely to earn a postsecondary credential than similar students.

Montana’s dual-credit courses are all taught at the collegiate level and are fully transferable within the Montana University System. The online and campus-based dual-credit courses are taught by college faculty. In some cases, dual-credit courses are taught in the high schools by high school faculty, with careful coordination protocols between the college and participating high school.

For more information on dual-credit opportunities available through the Montana University System, students, teachers, counselors, and parents can visit the Montana University System website at or visit the Montana Digital Academy Website at or contact your local public two-year college or community college.

Dr. John E. Cech is the deputy commissioner of Two-Year and Community College Education for the Montana University System.

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