Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Idaho's Dual Credit for Early Completers and 8-in-6 Programs

One of the lesser-known but critical parts of Students Come First is the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program. High school students now have the opportunity to complete their state high school graduation requirements early and take up to 36 dual credit courses free of charge—essentially earning up to two years of college credit before ever leaving high school!

This is an exciting and unprecedented opportunity for every Idaho student. The Dual Credit for Early Completers Program started last year. This year, the Legislature also approved what is known as the “8 in 6 Program” to help students finish their state graduation requirements early, if they choose. Here is more about each of these programs, how they complement each other, and how your children can participate!

Dual Credit for Early Completers (Idaho Code 33-1626) started in 2011 as part of Students Come First (SCF) and is a critical way in which the state is helping to motivate more students in high school and prepare them for postsecondary education. The Dual Credit for Early Completers program aims to ease the financial burden placed on families when their students go on to postsecondary education, whether it is college or professional-technical school.

Idaho has had dual credit opportunities for some time, but not every student has been able to access or afford these opportunities. Now, under the Dual Credit for Early Completers program, Idaho high school seniors who complete all their state-required high school graduation requirements early (excluding the senior project and the senior math requirement) are now eligible to take up to 36 college or professional-technical credits of dual credit courses during their senior year—all paid for by the state.

Students can take these courses while staying in the high school setting. The state will pay up to $75 per credit hour for these dual credit classes. Idaho’s colleges and universities currently charge this cost for dual credit courses. Students who choose to take dual credits from another institution of higher education can use this money to help defray costs. Students can access dual credit courses no matter where they live via the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, the Idaho Education Network, or from teachers within their own school.

The 8-in-6 program (Idaho Code 33-1628) was approved by the Idaho Legislature this year to help Idaho students take advantage of the dual credit opportunities provided by the Dual Credit for Early Completers.

The 8-in-6 program is so-named because it is designed to help students complete 8 years of schoolwork (2 years of middle school, 4 years of high school, and 2 years of postsecondary or trade school) in just 6 years. Students accomplish this by taking courses over the summer and by taking overload courses during the school year. It is important to note that 8-in-6 does not reduce the amount of time students spend in the classroom; it simply increases learning to throughout the year.

Students who participate in the 8-in-6 program can more easily finish their state graduation requirements early, allowing them to take full advantage of the Dual Credit for Early Completers program and complete up to an associate’s degree before they finish high school—all paid for by the state.

The 8-in-6 program does not pay for dual credits but does help students take overload courses so they can finish their high school graduation requirements early, positioning them to participate in the Dual Credit for Early Completers program, which will cover the costs of up to 36 dual credits.

Through the 8-in-6 program, the state provides funding for the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) to offer online summer and overload courses to program participants for a subsidized cost of $75 per credit. Program participants may take up to two overload credits per school year and two online credits per summer (for a total of four per year) at this subsidized rate.  The program is limited to 10% of students in each district, and it maintains high academic accountability standards for continued participation.

If you or your child is interested in participating in either the Dual Credit for Early Completers program or the 8-in-6 program, please be sure to contact your school counselor or building principal to learn more. More information also is available online at http://www.studentscomefirst.org/dualCredit.htm.

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