‘Dual enrollment’ scholarships can provide answer for workforce needs

In his Jan. 14 State of the State address, Governor Robert Bentley expressed a desire to expand programs that allow Alabama students to attend a community college while still in high school.

These “dual enrollment” programs, when combined with technical training offered by Alabama Community College System institutions, have the potential to transform education and workforce development in the state, according to Chancellor Mark Heinrich.

Such a move would cost-effectively accelerate the development of a pipeline of new skilled workers in Alabama, while potentially lowering the state’s high school drop-out rate, Heinrich said. Figures show that students involved in technical education programs have a high rate of completion.

“Expanding dual enrollment by using scholarships for students in technical programs would be a game-changer for the State of Alabama,” Heinrich said. “If we make dual enrollment even more accessible and make it free, we would give these students a head-start on pursuing a career.”

Last year, ACCS schools provided 3,500 scholarships to Alabama high school students in career technical dual enrollment programs. Additional funding for scholarships could result a dramatic rise in that number by removing a financial barrier for many parents who otherwise could not pursue the dual enrollment option for their child.

Today, due to limited funding, less than 10 percent of eligible Alabama high school students are able to receive career technical dual enrollment scholarships, through an ACCS institution. Expanding scholarships could result in the participation rate climbing as high as 50 percent, Heinrich said.

“Dual enrollment is a great program with tremendous benefits,” he added. “It’s a win-win situation for the high schools, our community colleges and for businesses across Alabama.”

Expanding scholarships for career technical dual enrollment is an ACCS budget priority for the upcoming fiscal year, and the system is working closely with the K-12 system to broaden participation in the program.