Georgia Senate alters dual enrollment: Students in Georgia now have credit limitations

Tattyanna Acosta-Gill, a senior at the Alpharetta campus, spoke against the new dual enrollment bill. Photo courtesy of Tattyanna Acosta-Gill

As if college admissions weren’t difficult enough, future Panthers may soon have to face another difficulty in applications: The Georgia Senate passed HB 444, which limits the number of dual enrollment courses a high schooler can take.

On Jan. 28, the Georgia Senate passed the Dual Enrollment Act (also known as the “Move on When Ready Act”). 

The bill limits a student to 30 credit hours with a course limit extended primarily toward high school juniors and seniors. Any other credits taken would be paid for by the students.

According to an audit conducted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the general spending conducted in the program increased by about 325% over the past five years. 

In the 2019 fiscal year, nearly 52,000 students have participated in dual enrollment.

“We see how much this program has grown with no guardrails in place, with no end in sight,” Rep. Bert Reeves (GA-34), the sponsor of this bill on the Senate floor, said.

Georgia State is particularly active in allowing students to participate in dual enrollment classes. These students feel a certain way with the increased legislation on the previously celebrated program.

The bill proposes these changes in hopes for a budget analysis, which has critics wondering how they got their numbers in the first place

“I’m not satisfied if we did our job [researching the bill]”, Sen. Elena Parent (GA-42) said.

Others agree that the bill does not accommodate the low-income students who not only dually enroll to save on future tuition costs but also try to gain a competitive application to attend high-performing universities. 

But admissions counselor DiAna K. Kelley has a different opinion on the matter. 

“In the past few years, dual enrollment has become so extensive that the future of this program was in jeopardy,” Kelley said.

The dual enrollment specialist believes that the cap on this program is the most effective way of allowing the program to last for future students. 

According to Kelley, most students that dually enroll at Georgia State hardly reach the 30-credit cap since a majority of the high school students take a mix of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes along with their other core classes.

She advises students who are worried about this bill interfering with other programs offered by the state — for example, the Early College High School initiative that allows students to receive an associate’s degree along with their diploma. 

“In fact, most college recruiters expect a wide variety of class rigors on their transcript at the time of applications,” Kelley said. “If students only invest in one program, such as dual enrollment, they would be missing out on other important opportunities.” 

In her opinion, Georgia State will not suffer from the dual enrollment restrictions because it has already placed its own restrictions on the program. 

Thousands of high school juniors and seniors apply to the program every year, and the number is not expected to drop any time soon. 

This bill may impact smaller local colleges that only have a limited number of high school students on their campuses.

But despite Georgia State’s lack of concern toward the program, students have expressed their concern toward the restraint in the Dual Enrollment Act.

Jared Chen, a senior at Lakeside High School and a dual enrollment student, was one of the few who chimed into the recent changes. 

“On one hand, I understand their reasoning because the number of dual enrollment students has risen over the years, and there is not enough funding,” Chen said. “I also understand that schools want to encourage AP classes, instead of dual enrollment courses, which some may say are ‘easier.’”

Chen takes classes at the Clarkston campus where many students from the DeKalb County area attend as well. He is in the process of graduating with 45 credits and recounts how this bill would have affected him if it were enacted earlier. 

“The experience has been transformative,” Chen said. “I have been able to experience and meet a wide variety of people that I never would have in a high school classroom.”

Tattyanna Acosta-Gill, a senior at Lambert High School, attends the Alpharetta campus and believes the bill is taking away opportunities from students.

“The whole point of dual enrollment is to set students up for success for the future,” Acosta-Gill said. “Dual enrollment gives high school students a toe-dip into a true college experience.”

Acosta-Gill has noticed a few of her own friends who come from low-income families and dually enroll to reduce the burden of future college expenses. 

The state funding helped assist them and allowed them to gain more than 30 credits and gain more opportunities at education.

Acosta-Gill raises an important point: According to U.S News and World Report, the state of Georgia ranked 30th in education, a 15-point rise in ranking from last year. 

Department heads from the Senate submitted more than $210 million in cuts for the mid-year budgets, with an estimated $300 million reduction by the 2021 fiscal year. Among these cuts includes the reduction in the dual enrollment program.

In other words, Gov. Brian Kemp has signed off to a 4% budget cut in 2020 and a 6% cut in 2021. Officials claim the Dual Enrollment Act is one of the many bills that have been implemented to cut costs.

The Dual Enrollment Act expects to begin enforcement from June 2020 and applies primarily to high school juniors and seniors. 

Sophomore students who wish to participate in the program must either attend technical schools or have a 3.7 GPA or higher and must have earned a 1200 on the SAT or a 26 on the ACT. In effect, they must meet the requirements of the Zell Miller Scholarship.

Freshmen have been restricted from dual enrollment altogether.

In addition to these restrictions, the dual enrollment program applies only to the “eligible core courses,” meaning the courses the students can participate in are English, math, science, social studies or foreign languages. 

All eligible CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) courses are included as well. 

Other courses that specialize in career interest are not included. 

These restrictions have been put in place to allow students to focus on their prerequisites.

“In my recommendation, students should discuss their future academic plans with their advisor and research into other post-secondary class opportunities,” Kelly said.