Rep. McNamara: Losing opportunities to new dual-credit requirements

Posted by: Jessica Baker  | Monday, October 5, 2015

Losing opportunities to new dual-credit requirements

While attending high school, students are offered many different options to enhance their experience during those four years. Whether that is extra-curricular activities, athletics or studying advanced coursework, the various ways students can expand their horizons are endless.  A great opportunity for high school students today is the ability to pursue dual-credit classes at their local high school that not only work towards their diploma, but also gain college credits. Though many traditional high schools and Career and Technical Education Centers incorporate dual-credits into their curriculum, I am directly involved in a different kind of school that heavily relies on dual-credits.

Other than being your state representative, I am also the Director of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, Early College High School, a school that allows students to earn a high school diploma while also working towards either an associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree. This innovative type of school is gaining momentum across the nation because it empowers students to complete college sooner than the traditional four years. While this is a wonderful way for students to achieve college credit and reduce college tuition costs, there is unfortunately a new and large roadblock for future students to become college ready.

The Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a regional accrediting body for Indiana’s colleges and universities, recently adopted a proposal which would restrict the number of teachers that are eligible to teach dual-credit courses. Educators will be required to hold at least a Master’s degree in the discipline/subfield of the course they instruct. If an educator holds at least a Master’s degree or higher in a discipline/subfield, other than that in which they are teaching, then they must have at least 18 graduate credit hours within that field completed by 2017. HLC is relying on the education of the teachers to support them in their career, and not taking into account their life experience as educators.

For example, I hold a Master’s degree in education, but would no longer be eligible to teach dual-credit political science or world history courses. My bachelor’s degree was in political science, and I have 12 hours of graduate political science credits, but would be considered ineligible to teach that subject, even though I have been teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Indiana and University of Evansville and have more than five-years’ experience as your state representative. With this new regulation set by HLC, schools will have a significantly lower number of qualified, dual-credit teachers. Students will suffer as a result.

In order for teachers to meet the 2017 deadline, they would need to balance their attention between full-time teaching and earning the graduate credits necessary for the HLC policy. I have spoken to teachers who are concerned with the new obstacles they are facing with this new requirement. We could potentially lose valuable and experienced teachers who are critical to our Indiana school systems because they will have to make a choice to sacrifice time with family and in their classrooms to pursue the graduate hours.

In that same breath, if we are losing dual-credit teachers, then the amount of dual-credit course offerings in our schools will be drastically reduced. This HLC requirement will negatively impact students in several ways, but mainly they will enter college less academically ready and more likely to incur the financial burdens of being there longer. This policy will be detrimental to the state of Indiana and our ability to provide a strong foundation to our future.

Dual-credit agreements between high schools and universities are an integral part of providing a sound educational future for our students in Indiana. According to a study conducted by Complete College America, the surest path to college completion is the shortest one. Dual-credit programs give students the opportunity to earn a college degree in less time, saving both time and money. Additionally, studies show the more dual credits students take with them to the college the more likely they are to stay in college and complete in four years.

I have been contacting HLC to voice my concerns about the new requirement. I am pleased to serve on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education Dual Credit Advisory Council to address the concerns raised by HLC’s policy, and I am also uniquely positioned as an executive board member of the Midwest Higher Education Compact. Both entities will be reviewing the policy and making recommendations, so that we can ensure the voices of Indiana teachers are heard and that we do not decrease the amount of dual-credit courses in our state. We want to prepare our students for college and career readiness with the best education possible, and we will be working together to guarantee that happens. I will continue to update you with the progress we have made. Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at h76@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9816.

-30-

Rep. McNamara (R-Evansville) represents portions of Posey and Vanderburgh counties.