On Thursday of last week, Renay Scott, President of NMSU Doña Ana Community College, and I spent three hours discussing dual credit with the Legislative Education Study Committee (LESC). The good news we shared with them is that high school students taking dual credit courses in the NMSU system are performing well, matriculate at institutions of higher education at higher rates than other high school students, and require less remediation upon entering college than other students. In short, dual credit, done well, is a good thing.
The bad news we shared with them is that the expansion of dual credit is straining the resources of colleges and universities. For example, within the NMSU system, dual credit students now represent approximately half of the enrollment of NMSU Grants and NMSU Carlsbad, yet these institutions receive no tuition or general fees from dual credit students. Even the limited amount of money allocated for dual credit students in the state’s formula funding has not been forthcoming because of budget cuts. Thus, the NMSU system is left in the untenable position of opening more and more sections to accommodate dual credit students, with no funding available to support these sections.
Other problem areas we discussed with the LESC were: lack of conformity across the state on qualifying requirements for students taking dual credit courses; student meandering—all too often dual credit students do not take courses that are part of a pathway to a degree; the need for better distinctions between high school courses and college courses, particularly in the area of mathematics; and, the short supply of instructors with the credentials essential for teaching college courses. The good news is that these problems are resolvable, but will require the combined attention of the Public Education Department, the Higher Education Department, and colleges and universities, which need to come together and provide a comprehensive set of policies for dual credit students and courses.
Among the policy issues that require attention are:
- Funding for dual credit courses
- Guidance for teachers on credentials needed to teach college courses
- Establishment of minimum qualifications for students taking dual credit courses
- Advising for students taking dual credit courses
- Courses available for dual credit
The promise of dual credit still shines brightly in New Mexico. It is incumbent on us to fulfill that promise through sustainable funding and carefully crafted policies.
With all best wishes,