In a joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Education and Higher Education, on May 24, the panel heard from a variety of invited witnesses on the subject of dual credit. Community college faculty members have a broad range of opinions regarding dual credit courses. Judging from the most recent testimony, however, a number of facts have emerged.
First, the programs are growing prodigiously. Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes told the panel that dual credit programs have surged from 30 thousand students to over 90 thousand students in recent years.
Second, over 90 percent of dual credit courses are offered by community colleges.Typically universities offer courses if there is no two-year college in the area, or in specialized programs.
Third, dual credit courses are still less popular than Advanced Placement courses, which now enroll 194 thousand students. Some supporters of Advanced Placement are concerned about the growth of dual credit. High school faculty members, for instance, complain occasionally that the best students are choosing dual credit instead of their AP courses. The failure rate of AP examinations is high, however. Also, dual credit instructors must possess the same credentials as college faculty, whereas AP instructors are not required to have master's degrees.
Fourth, most students who complete dual credit classes go on to universities and perform as well or better than native students at these universities. This means, however, that they may not count as "successful" community college students, in the sense that they do not typically earn an associate's degree, or even complete the core curriculum at a two-year school. One might add that, since these "stronger" students transfer to universities more quickly, they do not remain at a community college to take a variety of other courses offered there. This could cost the state additional money, since universities receive more revenue per credit hour than two-year schools.
Finally, problems remain. There is a great deal of inconsistency around the state regarding student financial aid, textbook costs, tuition, availability of courses, and qualified faculty. Representing the Texas Association of Community Colleges, Dr. Rey Garcia told the panel that, in some rural areas, the "system breaks down a little bit."