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School’s Dual Credit program needs to offer more flexibility for students

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Clash Course

Student struggles to make a decision.

Student struggles to make a decision.

Student struggles to make a decision.

Student struggles to make a decision.

Johnny Nguyen, Staff reporter

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A sophomore’s eyes scan the sign-up forms for enrollment in the Early College Start program, also known as Dual Credit, but she finds a problem; the program requires the student to take a specific sequence that includes classes she’d never take in high school.

The requirement of taking two blocks of Dual Credit classes per semester presents many problems to students who only want to earn college credit for one specific subject during high school. Students need the ability to choose individual courses instead of taking these dual credit classes as a double block or in sets.

When taking Dual Credit classes at Austin Community College, tuition fees are waived for students in Round Rock. However, books, additional class supplies and parking fees are not waived. According to Austin Community College, these fees can average up to $100 per course, adding up to about $800 over two years. In 2014, the College Board estimated the average student in the United States spent over $1,000 on books and supplies. Students pay more money for these classes even though, for example, they may only want to take the Dual Credit classes focusing on English, like English Composition and British Literature.

In addition, many times these extra required Dual Credit classes are inapplicable to the students’ plans. Forcing a student to start taking multiple college courses when they only want to focus on one or two risks failure. A 2009 study by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research found that differences in subject preference related with anticipated success. When students enjoyed the subject, they were confident in doing well and mastering the skills being taught, but when talking about their subjects that they didn’t enjoy, only a third expected to do well. Not to mention, a student who plans to major in engineering isn’t going to need Introduction to Psychology, but that’s still one of the courses that the student will have to take when they sign up for Dual Credit classes.

As with any other higher-level class, Dual Credit courses will stress the student. A 2014 study by Florida State College found that 66 percent of students agreed the workload from college classes caused them the most stress, and that students handled stress in unhealthy ways such as ignoring it, or not reaching out to help or counseling. This led to a negative impact on academic progress, and behaviors such as procrastination, low work ethic and lower grades. In addition, a survey conducted in 2014 at Sacred Heart Academy found that students in advanced classes had anywhere from 3 to 8 hours of homework per night, and 94 percent attributed their stress to schoolwork. Taking multiple college classes will cause more stress and lead to negative effects on the student.

Faculty and staff support a double block system for Dual Credit classes because of complications with Austin Community College’s schedule. However, there should still be other classes available for choice instead of the two pre-selected courses that are given to students for every semester. Teachers also say that taking all of the difficult classes is preparation for the real college experience, but that doesn’t mean abruptly dropping two courses onto the student will help their academic progress or prepare them for the future.

Students should discuss possible alternatives to the sequence with their counselors and push for a more lenient program that won’t demand the students to take so many unnecessary classes. In addition, the school administration should work with Austin Community College to devise a plan that will allow for more flexibility in student options. Parents should also contact counselors, administrators and academic advisers about the program to see what they can do to help their students. The Early College Start program will offer many benefits to students when it can truly accommodate the students’ economic and academic needs. Changing the requirements and making the program more flexible will help more students in the long run.

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