Happy student in the classroom

The goal of the Kern High School District, Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield is simple, yet difficult to achieve: create opportunities for every student to be successful and encourage a college-going culture in Kern County.

It’s easy to say, but turning words into action is not so straightforward.

Longstanding programs have been in place that provide local students the opportunity to earn college credit while still in high school, but it wasn’t until the introduction of dual enrollment courses throughout the Kern High School District in 2015 that interest and participation took off.

A collaboration between KHSD, BC and CSUB, dual enrollment allows students the opportunity to take courses at their respective schools that earn them high school and college credit simultaneously. Unlike existing programs like articulated credit and concurrent enrollment, course credit is earned upon completion of a class and can be taken during a student’s normal class schedule.

“The student is very attracted to that college credit opportunity because they don’t have to do it outside of their regular day, they don’t have to do it in the summer, they don’t have to wait to get to college to get the credit,” said Dean McGee, KHSD associate superintendent of educational services and innovative programs. “They take one class that’s both a college course and a high school course.”

In three years, dual enrollment has grown considerably in terms of student enrollment, school participation and courses offered.

The number of participating high schools tripled and the number of enrolled students quadrupled, going from 733 in 2015 to 2,995 students earning over 9,000 total units during the 2017-18 school year.

“We believe in creating opportunities for every student to be successful,” McGee said. “That’s our responsibility because we believe every kid can be successful. It’s our job to come up with those opportunities and dual enrollment is one of those.”

Dual enrollment in Kern County started with the Wonderful College Prep Academy in Delano and Bakersfield College and resulted in students receiving their associate degree along with their high school diploma.

“That is really a true college model where students have a completely integrated college-high school experience,” said Anna Laven, BC’s program manager for dual enrollment. “(Students) start the summer before their freshman year of high school with college courses and take them all throughout, including summers.”

BC also has dual enrollment partnerships with Delano Joint Union High School District, McFarland Unified School District and Wasco Union High School District.

Laven said the educational attainment opportunities dual enrollment offers has the power to transform communities. With relatively low levels of college attainment in Kern County, dual enrollment brings college to high school students and helps them envision a future where higher education is a possibility.

“National research indicates students who participate in dual enrollment are more likely to go to college, more likely to be successful in college and more likely to graduate on time,” Laven said.

Dual enrollment can also save students time and money. Enrollment fees for classes taken for BC are waived and KHSD covers the cost of books for students while at CSUB, the administrative enrollment fees are only $36 per course and are sometimes covered by partnering organizations such as Chevron.

“Students are getting college credit, which can then facilitate how fast they are able to get finished with their college degree,” said Debra Jackson, CSUB interim associate dean of graduate and undergraduate studies. “If a student begins their first year of college with a bunch of units under their belt already, then they’re going to be able to graduate in four years or less, which means less student debt. They can enter the workforce more quickly, which is really important right now because the California economy needs more workers who have bachelor’s degrees. It’s just a win-win situation.”

CSUB offers dual enrollment opportunities for DJUSD students as well as students in the Chaffey Joint Union School District in San Bernardino County.

CSUB also offers early enrollment opportunities that allow high school students to take classes at CSUB to earn college credit. Unlike dual enrollment classes, which are taught at a high school campus, early enrollment students take classes along college students and are taught by college professors within the college environment.

The collaboration between the educational institutions also entices students to consider staying local after graduating high school.

“From my perspective, I want the students from Kern County who are really going to be the superstars of higher education to come to CSUB,” Jackson said.

With expanded course offerings and the incorporation of dual enrollment within the school accountability model, there is more emphasis on students receiving dual enrollment credit. It is projected that 4,500 students will receive dual enrollment credit in the 2018-19 school year.

“I think it really puts legs to the rhetoric that we believe every kid can be successful,” McGee said. “It’s putting actions to the words.” 

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