Every Washington high school student should have a chance to jump-start his or her education by earning college credit for college-level classwork.
Lawmakers can make programs that offer concurrent college and high-school credits more affordable by passing Senate Bill 5719.
Dual-credit programs like Running Start and College in the High School save students time and college tuition. They can motivate students to enroll in postsecondary programs, opening doors to many lucrative and fulfilling careers.
These programs are increasingly popular — nearly 62% of Washington’s high school students completed at least one dual-credit course in 2020. But disproportionately fewer low-income students, English-language learners, students who identify as Black, Latino American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander took advantage of dual-credit opportunities.
Education advocates like the Washington Student Achievement Council have identified cost as one potential barrier to dual-enrollment. SB 5719, sponsored by Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, would lower the cost for College in the High School courses from $65 to $35 per credit, and establish a grant program for low-income students. The bill also would require colleges and universities to waive fees for Running Start.
The bill is especially timely, as the pandemic has erased years of progress in increasing numbers of Washington students enrolling in postsecondary programs, according to the Washington Roundtable.
Seventy percent of jobs in Washington’s economy require advanced education or training, according to the group, which represents many of the state’s major private-sector employers. But from fall 2019-21, enrollment was down 23% at community and technical colleges, according to the Roundtable data. At public four-year institutions, enrollment declined 5.6% — with disproportionate declines among first-year and low-income students. The Roundtable predicts that only 43% of the class of 2019 will earn a postsecondary credential by age 26.
Ensuring high-school students have access to advanced coursework helps motivate students to graduate high school and pursue advanced education or training. It’s a win for Washington students, families, employers and communities.
Financial hardship should never prevent a student from accessing higher-level courses. Lawmakers can help by swiftly passing SB 5179.
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