Dual-enrollment proposal worries parents, students|They oppose cutting funding for programs at community colleges

Published 9:43 am Thursday, July 30, 2009

Contributing Editor

A proposal to cut funding for programs that allow high-school students to attend N.C. community colleges for technical training or to earn college credits by taking college courses is opposed by some area parents, students and educators.
Those programs, or at least some courses provided by those programs, may not be available to eligible high-school students during the upcoming school year.
More than 250 students in Beaufort County’s public schools, private schools and home schools who have enrolled in Beaufort County Community College classes could be affected by the proposed legislation, according to the college.
The proposed legislation to eliminate funding for some of these courses at North Carolina’s 58 community colleges is among several cuts suggested by state lawmakers as one way to help close a $4.5 billion funding gap in the state budget. The reductions would combine to save about $14.6 million, state lawmakers have said.
“We are very concerned. All of us have been making calls and sending e-mails,” said Kim Barr, a member of The Eastern Association of Christian Home Schools’ board of directors, on Wednesday.
Barr said her daughter Michelle’s participation in the dual-enrollment program put her on the fast track to a career in nursing.
“It enabled her to finish college a lot earlier. … She began chipping away at the prerequisites for the RN program,” Barr said about her daughter, who, at age 20, is a registered nurse with a job at the new heart center at Pitt County Memorial Hospital. “All of this was received through the college.”
Another daughter, Megan, 16, will be eligible next spring to participate in the dual-enrollment program. Megan also wants to become a nurse. Barr said she hopes dual-enrollment programs survive so her younger daughter can benefit from them the way her older daughter did.
By earning college credits while high-school students, many of those students enter a four-year college or university as juniors, helping reduce the cost of attending a four-year institution, Barr said.
“It truly has been a wonderful program,” Barr said. “Several of our (home-schooled) graduates have taken part in the program.”
Barr said she is “most definitely” opposed to the General Assembly cutting funding for dual-enrollment and similar programs. State legislators need to make cuts elsewhere to help solve the budget impasse, she said. Barr said she plans to address the issue with state Rep. Arthur Williams, a Democrat from Beaufort County and who represents the 6th District in the state House of Representatives.
“They need to cut those wasteful spending programs,” Barr said.
Anticipating the funding cuts will occur, Katherine Thomas, 17, was at BCCC on Wednesday to take a test as part of her effort to get her GED so she can enroll at BCCC as a full-time student for this upcoming academic year. If she can’t enroll in dual-enrollment classes as a high-school student, the GED-BCCC option keeps her in school and earning college credits.
“We’re in the (enrollment) process,” said Thomas on Wednesday.
Thomas prefers that funding for dual-enrollment programs be kept intact. Asked if legislators would be making a mistake if they cut funding for dual-enrollment programs, Thomas responded with a quick “definitely.”
“I wish they could keep it, if possible. I understand if they’re not able to do it,” said Thomas, adding that she is aware of the budget crisis the state faces.
Thomas, who’s been home-schooled, has 17 college credits after two semesters of participation in BCCC’s dual-enrollment program.
“I really enjoy the dual-enrollment program. … This is a very beneficial program,” Thomas said.
In a dual-enrollment program, a high-school student takes a course alongside traditional community-college students. Under such a program, a student age 16 and older may enroll in a college course with the permission of his or her high-school principal.
The dual-enrollment program allows the state’s community colleges to offer technical training and college-transfer courses to high-school students without tuition charge.