Nicole Perez spends her school days at a local high school here, but when the 17-year-old senior steps into English class she is dipping her toes into college.
Ms. Perez is one of a growing number of students taking community-college courses at their high schools. These “dual-enrollment” classes are a low- or no-cost way for students to gain college credits, helping smooth their way to a college degree.
“It’s a little more work, but I actually like that,” said Ms. Perez, who hopes the credits will save her time and money next year, when she plans to attend a four-year university.
The growing cost of college, rising student debt and a weak economy have prompted a rethinking of the role of community colleges. In 2009, President Barack Obama made community colleges a big part of his plan to return the U.S. to its perch as the nation with the most higher-education degrees per capita by 2020.
High-achieving students long have been able to earn college credits by taking advanced-placement classes—such as history, chemistry and literature—that prepare them for an exam. The new community-college classes are designed to boost a broader group of students to the college gate.
By joining with local high schools, some community colleges are designing remedial classes to be sure that students are college-ready. They also are offering more advanced classes such as the one Ms. Perez is taking.
These classes use the same curriculum, grading and testing as those at the community colleges, said Adam Lowe, who directs the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, a professional group for dual-enrollment programs. <Read more. May require paid subscription.>