Politics & Government

More Kentucky high school students could earn college credits under plan discussed in Frankfort

Maria Jones says it saves money to get college credit while still in high school.
Maria Jones says it saves money to get college credit while still in high school.

FRANKFORT — More Kentucky students could earn college credit while still in high school under recommendations presented Monday to the General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Education.

A special Fayette County Public Schools program called Opportunity Middle College already helps students like Maria Jones of Lexington take courses for both high school and college credit.

"I think it's helped me in a financial sense," said Maria, a 17-year-old senior who attends the program on Bluegrass Community and Technical College's campus. "College is getting more expensive. It's getting harder to pay for it. Being able to get dual credit while I am in high school gives me a head start."

Improving Kentucky's dual-credit system will be a primary legislative focus for the Kentucky Board of Education.

A new dual-credit policy that would streamline credit transfers at affordable costs for students was proposed by a work group made up of representatives from the Kentucky Department of Education, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said that students don't have equal access to dual credit. In one example, some students don't have to pay anything for dual-credit courses, while others might have to pay at least $300.

The new policy seeks to increase access to dual-credit courses; promote quality and rigor in the courses offered; guarantee transferability of courses among postsecondary institutions; and ensure dual-credit courses remain affordable to all eligible students.

Under the proposal, the costs of delivering dual-credit courses could be shared by a combination of state postsecondary institutions, school districts, state-funded scholarships, and students and families so that no one entity is solely responsible for financing.

Holliday told the committee meeting at Kentucky State University that $4 million from the General Assembly would be a good start.

State Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, co-chairman of the legislative committee, said after the meeting that he supported the proposals.

State Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, who also serves on the committee, expressed support as well.

"We need to make sure we have access and affordability and we have credentialed teachers so that we have rigor in those programs," Givens said in an interview.

Frank LaBoone, principal of Opportunity Middle College in Lexington, said that the students there don't have to pay to receive college credit. The district pays half the cost and BCTC waives the rest. By the time Maria Jones graduates from high school, she will have enough college credits to be classified as a college sophomore.

While Fayette County is considered a leader in the dual-credit initiative, LaBoone said "we're already trying to figure out as a district how to continue to pay for dual credit and if the state provides additional options, that could be helpful in terms of how Fayette County proceeds.''