Letter to the Editor: How Dual Enrollment Combats Long-term Debt and Accelerates Graduation Timeframes

To the Editor:

There has been growing national conversation about the rising cost of higher education and the length of time it takes students to complete college.

According to College Board's 2023 "Trends in College Pricing" report, average tuition and fees at public four-year institutions are $11,260 in-state and $29,150 out-of-state; $41,540 at private nonprofit four-year institutions; and $3,990 at public two-year institutions (in-district).

It may be surprising to some that the federal government measures graduation success by three-year community college graduation rates and six-year university graduation rates. Simply put, a longer graduation time coupled with rising costs creates a scenario in which college students acquire more debt.

One way to both combat long-term debt and accelerate graduation timeframes is dual enrollment, which occurs when a high school student takes college courses for credit. In Berkshire County, there are numerous ways to accomplish this, including taking concurrent courses in high school and at Berkshire Community College (BCC) or Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA); taking online courses; or directly enrolling in a course at one of the campuses.

National estimates suggest about 1.4 million high school students — or 9% of all high school students — are enrolled in college courses each year, but this number has grown tremendously in recent years.

"Research Priorities for Advancing Equitable Dual Enrollment Policy and Practice" (Taylor et al., July 2022)

At BCC, we have seen a major increase in students taking advantage of dual enrollment opportunities with us, especially following the College's decision to make up to 15 credits per semester free for Berkshire County high school juniors and seniors. Just this fall, we enrolled 429 high school students at BCC. Our research shows that high school students who enroll with us tend to do extremely well in their courses and continue on to enroll in further higher education courses here and at other colleges and universities.

Dual enrollment is a wonderful opportunity to experience college, earn free credits and to be positioned to complete a degree faster. The program also allows high school students to develop confidence in doing college-level work. Individual counseling and coaching is available for all students who participate in the program.

Students interested in dual enrollment should take the important first step to meet with their school counselor, who can help to connect them with the right college and ensure that they choose courses that keep them on track for high school graduation.

For more information on dual enrollment opportunities at BCC, call 413-499-4660 or email earlycollege@berkshirecc.edu.