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  • Writer's pictureHappy Homeschool

Dual Credit – The Best Dividend

Why are dual credit classes typically the best ROI for homeschooled high school students? What are some potential drawbacks with dual credit?

Pro #1: Credit for each course can be counted as high school and college credit simultaneously, hence the name “dual credit.” The credit will go on both transcripts, and it is highly affordable.

I don’t know about yall, but towards the 8th year of homeschooling my son, I was starting to feel some significant burn out. Even classes that were enjoyable and fascinating to me started to feel overwhelming to teach. We both welcomed “changing it up” at home and outsourcing many of the classes. While it was wonderful to hand off some of that responsibility to people better equipped to teach than me, it had its financial drawbacks. A la carte classes at our local one and two were fantastic, I loved the environment and the teachers, but they were costing me hundreds of dollars every month (not to mention registration fees and supply fees). With five kids here at home, we count every penny.

Community college classes. These classes cost us right around $60 per class (not per credit). In some instances, if you are zoned to your particular CC, these classes can be completely free. Once a student takes the class, the grade becomes available to use for both high school and college credit. Relieving some of the work at home by me.

Pro #2: Instructor quality

I don’t know how to say this gently, but homeschoolers often cheapen themselves with less-than-great outside instruction for their children. We settle for what is easy, what is inexpensive, and what is available. Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing homeschool moms that also make incredible instructors/teachers, my son has had teachers that are nothing short of saintly with their abilities to teach.

This certainly does not mean that college level instruction is by any means “good” or “quality.” There are horror stories of professors every day inflicting their worldly, narrow viewpoints and far-left progressivism in the classroom daily. Then there are professors that “phone it in,” basically showing up for class and doing the absolute minimum with instruction. My son and I both have been mostly pleased with the instruction he has been given. And a benefit of using dual credit and college at home is that when a topic of somewhat controversial issues comes up, my son is still home and able to discuss with my husband and I, instead of just having to process himself, without valuable instruction/guidance at home.

There are at least a dozen ways to “vet” community college classes and instructors before signing up for a class. Going to rating websites, asking for referrals from other dual credit homeschoolers, looking up the textbook list, checking out the syllabus, those are a few simple ways to get a feel for the quality of the instruction before signing up for the class. It’s also nice to keep in mind the cost. Paying for just average instruction is a lot easier to swallow when the cost is not obscene.

Pro #3: Grading

Sigh. I don’t even want to bring it up, but it is a reality. When mom/dad is the instructor, grades tend to be a lot more subjective. To be honest, I am not a fan of grades, at all. But grades on transcripts are a reality, and for the college-bound homeschooler, they are an important part of the admissions process.

Every bit of bias goes out the door when grades are given by instructors at community college. They are permanent and without interpretation. Because they are given outside the home, they are likely to be given more weight.

Pro #4: A variety of subject choices are available

The diversity of classes available to us at community colleges is truly incredible. There is a class for every single degree plan or every interest. You can start with the basics, like Eng 101 or US History, and then move on to a deeper dive in any subject. Take classes for your degree plan or just take classes because they look interesting to you. Or take a CTE class and develop a skill. Options are just endless!

Pro #5: Dual credit ranks at the top of the list for credit transferability, higher than CLEP, AP, or any other kind of credit by examination.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love CLEP and AP, but I know that if I want the “sure thing,” I will recommend dual credit through a university or community college.

Colleges and universities have policies that vary tremendously on what types and how many Credits by Exam (CBE) that they will accept. The biggest “bang for your buck” as far as transferability will always be credit awarded by community college or university. The only drawback may be the risk in the class not transferring the way you’d like it to. For instance, my son took a wonderful Ancient Mediterranean History class from Arizona State University that did not transfer to his local community college as history credits the way that he wished it was. His local CC is not his destination school, so the credits may still transfer somewhere else, but for now, he is stuck repeating a history class to gain the history credits he needs at his CC.

Basic classes, such as Eng 101/102, College Comp, Speech, US History, Gov., all typically have great transferability.

Pro #6: Location

If you’d prefer to never leave your house again (like me), you will love the available online classes that community college can provide. But, even if you don’t mind leaving your house, there is often a community college nearby you for an in-person class. Lone Star College has many locations, and many of the campuses are incredibly nice. My son did an in-person winter minimester and I absolutely loved having him go to school and do one of his college classes in-person. It is important to know though that some of the community colleges have rules regarding minors on campus. Some schools require that a parent stays on campus if the student is under 16.

Probably would not be a fair article unless I included some of the negatives to using dual credit…

Con #1: Grades are permanent

This could also fall under a positive if the student does well. But I tell my son all the time, IT MATTERS. You cannot just make a poor grade disappear. It is eternal (unless the college has a policy involving retakes). Poor grades on dual credit transcripts could really be a deciding factor in future transfer college admission. Also, most colleges have policies regarding dual credit student performance. A failing grade or too many withdrawals can get you on probation or even get you kicked out of the program.

Con #2: Parents have to let go, but they also have to stay involved

Letting go could also be a positive if a parent is truly ready to take a backseat in their child’s education. But it can be incredibly frustrating, too. You will not be able to access information on your child (depending also if you signed a FERPA agreement), you won’t be able to email your child’s instructor, you will have very little idea of your child’s performance in the class (unless you make your child show you every assignment/quiz/test grade.

At some CC’s, like Lone Star, parents are required to stay involved in other ways though. Every semester I have to fill out forms and re-print transcripts and graduation plans, as I am my son’s school principal.

Con #3: Constantly updating the high school transcript and graduation plan

This could probably fall under a “pro” since it forces the homeschool parent to keep up to date records and plans. Honestly, I grumble when I am forced to do it every semester AND I make my son do it with me, but I am always thankful when we are done, and everything is nicely updated, and records are being kept. It is so incredibly easy to forget about a class your child might have taken if there is no record of it. Still, it’s a chore to create it. My advice would be to make it incredibly simple and easily updated. It is more of a box to check at the community college level, no one is actually looking at the transcript, they just want to make sure that one exists. Don’t worry about making it beautiful and wonderful until the end, when you are applying at the final destination university.

Con #4: The number of classes a child may take per semester could be limited

Every college is different, but it is best to check with the CC’s policy regarding the number of classes a dual credit student is allowed to take per semester. I would never advocate for having a full college load as a high school student but being limited to just two classes can be frustrating also. Some community colleges only allow for enrollment junior and senior year, also. Lone Star allows for 4 years, so starting early, in say 6th grade, would not be advisable.

There are ways around this, as a child could take classes and many different colleges and then just have the credits transfer from many different locations when the time comes. But enrolling everywhere is no piece of cake and can be a headache.

In Conclusion,

It was hard for me to come up with some “cons” to doing dual credit. The biggest one would be that sometimes it's just work. If you’ve got an unmotivated but otherwise very smart student, it can be a chore just to get them to do it. Same thing if your child is introverted, shy, or does not like to step out of his comfort zone.

I have yet to ever talk with any homeschool parent that regrets doing dual credit or has had an overall negative experience. Most parents recommend doing it and are always more than willing to chat about their experience.

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