One in Four Freshmen Now Starts in January, Not August

When she graduated from her high school in Pittsburgh last spring, Mikaela Molstre didn’t follow her classmates to college. She went to Africa instead and worked in an orphanage.

That convinced her that she wanted to become a social worker, and this month Molstre is beginning as a freshman at Cedarville University, a Christian college in Cedarville, Ohio.

“There is definitely a little anxiety” about starting school in January and not August, Molstre says. But that was better than going to college with no idea of what she wanted to do.

Molstre’s story is growing less and less unusual. In spite of the long-held image of freshmen moving into college wearing shorts and flip-flops under colorful foliage, one in four first-time students at American colleges and universities now starts not in the early fall, but in the winter, according to a new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

These include older-than-traditional-age students, military veterans taking advantage of G.I. Bill benefits, people who can’t immediately afford to pay tuition or need to work for a few months to save some money toward it, and high school graduates who, like Molstre, aren’t sure they want to go to college — until they’ve lived at home for six months or can’t get jobs.

“More and more people are going to college these days in general, whereas maybe 50 years ago there was an economy in which people could get jobs they were happy with without a college education,” says Laura Dimino, director of student services at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania, which has a special orientation for freshmen who start classes in the winter. “Now we’ve got such a higher proportion of the population thinking ‘I should go to college.’ After a bit of time at home, they make that decision to go.” (Read more.)

Via on Marcus, The Hechinger Report in Diverse Issues in Higher Ed.

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Advanced Placement vs. Dual Enrollment

Can we please dispense with the fiction that Advanced Placement courses in any way resemble college courses? Because that’s what it is—a fiction, carefully crafted by the College Board to promote its AP franchise to the detriment of other, better options. Specifically, I’m talking about dual enrollment, a program in many states that allows qualified high-school seniors (and in some cases, juniors) to take actual college courses. Typically those courses count for both high-school and college credit, and are directly transferable into the state-university system (and often beyond). In many states, like mine, tuition and fees for dual-enrollment students are minimal.

I speak as someone who has had a great deal of experience with both AP and DE. As a college administrator and professor, I’ve dealt with hundreds of students who had, or were seeking, AP credit. I’ve also taught hundreds (probably well over 1,000) dual-enrollment students.

Moreover, as a parent, I have four children who have all taken at least one AP course (the youngest is a ninth-grader currently taking AP “HUG,” or human geography), and I am now on my third dual-enrollment student. My two older kids each earned a full year of college credit while dually enrolled, which served them well, as my daughter went on to graduate from a private liberal-arts college in three years and my son (fingers crossed) appears poised to do the same.

I might add that this has also served our family well, considering the price tag for a year at a private liberal-arts college.

Anecdotally speaking, all three of my kids have found dual enrollment to be far superior as an educational experience to taking AP courses in high school. It’s not that AP courses are bad. As high-school courses go, they’re well above average because they usually have the best teachers and the best students. But the point is, they’re high-school classes, not college classes. (Read more.)

Via Rob Jenkins, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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Elementary Pupils Immersed in Foreign Language

When it comes to lessons in other tongues, Kevin Fitzgerald, the superintendent of the Caesar Rodney school district in northeastern Delaware, is never at a loss for words.

He speaks with pride about the fact that his district’s high school, Caesar Rodney High School, offers six foreign languages: French, Spanish, German, Latin, and, more recently, Arabic and Mandarin.

This school year, the district introduced a more novel and potentially more effective foreign-language initiative to talk up: a new Chinese-immersion program for 101 kindergartners, which the district plans to offer those children and successive kindergartners through 8th grade.

The immersion program, which provides instruction in math, science, and literacy in Chinese for half a day and in English for the remainder, is one of three such programs funded though Gov. Jack Markell’s recently created World Language Expansion InitiativeRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader. The initiative operates with $1.9 million annually from Delaware’s state budget.

At a time when school districts face constant budgetary constraints while also being charged with preparing students for jobs in a more global economy, proponents of foreign-language instruction say Delaware’s new immersion program represents an uncommon but welcome step toward introducing foreign language at an age that researchers say is optimal for students to become multilingual.

“We’d like to think it will become more common,” said William P. Rivers, the executive director of the Joint National Committee for Languages-National Council for Language and International Studies, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for languages and international education. (Read more.)

Via Jamaal Abdul-alim, Education Week.

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Rural District Nurtures Dual-Enrollment Effort

Brittney Crews took so many dual-credit courses at rural Halifax County High in South Boston, Va., that she received an associate degree weeks before her 2011 high school graduation ceremony.

“It helps you go ahead and start your life instead of having to stay so long in school,” said Ms. Crews, 19, who now attends Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, Va.

Ms. Crews’ situation isn’t unique for Halifax County High. Nearly one-fifth of its 407 seniors earned associate degrees by the time they graduated last school year, and 91 percent finished high school with a college transcript. The approximately 1,700-student school has become a leader in dual-enrollment participation in the state for its emphasis on dual-enrollment courses.

Halifax County High has accomplished that despite its rural location, and it did so through a number of efforts, such as encouraging high school teachers to become college instructors, creating satellite sites for dual-enrollment courses, and raising its number of student participants by offering college-level classes in career and technical education areas.

The Halifax County district, which enrolls about 5,900 students, expanded its dual-enrollment portfolio under the leadership of its former superintendent, Paul Stapleton, who wanted to see more of his students go to college.

“It was like most things in education,” he said. “If there’s a need and you’re in a rural area, you try to solve a problem. You know no one is going to come to your rescue.”

Students in dual enrollment earn both high school and college credit for taking the same course. More than 70 percent of public high schools offered dual-credit courses about 10 years ago, according to the most recent available figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. But rural schools often face difficulties in offering such courses because of their distance from colleges and the high cost of transportation. (Read more.)

Via Diette Courrégé, Education Week.

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Dual Enrollment Linked With Significant College Advantage

New research shows students who get a taste of college while still in high school are much more likely to continue their education and complete a degree.

Jobs for the Future, the education research nonprofit based in Boston, conducted an extensive study following 32,908 Texas high school students who graduated in 2004 for six year. Half participated in dual enrollment programs and half did not. The two groups had similar academic and social backgrounds.

The results are striking endorsement of the model. JFF found dual enrollment students were:

• 2.2 times more likely to enroll in a Texas two- or four-year college;

• 2.0 times more likely to return for a second year of college; and

• 1.7 times more likely to complete a college degree.

These findings held for all racial groups, as well as for students from low-income backgrounds.

While 54 percent of dual enrollment high school graduates earned a college degree, just 37 percent of those in the control group did the same. Looking at bachelor’s degrees, 47 percent of those in dual enrollment completed at a four-year college compared to 30 percent of non-dual enrollment graduates.

“The theory behind dual enrollment is that enabling high school students to experience real college coursework is one of the best ways to prepare them for college success,” according to the JFF report.

The organization recommends policymakers expand dual enrollment as a way to enhance college readiness and state policy should ensure low-income and underrepresented students can take advantage of the courses by providing more preparation and support for these populations.

Via Caralee Adams, Education Week.

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