Written by Stephanie Whalen, Chair, Academy for Teaching Excellence & Associate Professor, English and Interdisciplinary Studies

You may have heard a buzz about dual credit, but are still wondering what’s going on and how it will affect our future students. On August 11 of this year, Governor Rauner signed an amendment to the Dual Credit Quality Act. The original act had high school districts work through college partners to provide college courses and credit for their students. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education https://www.ibhe.org/dualcredit.html, the act was signed into law in 2010 with the following stated goals.

  1. Reduce college costs.
  2. Speed time to degree completion.
  3. Improve the curriculum for high school students and the alignment of the curriculum with college and workplace expectations.
  4. Facilitate the transition between high school and college.
  5. Enhance communication between high school and colleges.
  6. Offer opportunities for improving degree attainment for underserved student populations.

In the original act, school districts could limit the amount of dual credit courses that students take. The amendment to this act will allow Illinois high school students to enroll in an unlimited amount of dual credit courses. Successful completion of a dual credit course earns a student both high school and college credit. With no cap on the number of courses a student can take, it would be possible to graduate with a high school degree an Associate’s degree at the same time. In addition, the requirements for credentials needed by faculty to teach dual credit courses have changed. In the original act, the credentials needed to teach a dual credit course were in alignment with the credentials needed to teach that course at the college partner institution. In the recent amendment, the requirements to teach dual credit are aligned with the minimum credentials of the Higher Learning Commission, which could be a few graduate courses in a subject matter for some dual credit offerings. Additionally, even if that standard is not met, a high school teacher can obtain a multi-year provisional certificate to teach dual credit while taking courses.

Although the intention is to improve the likelihood that students will attend college by providing them with some early college credits that may boost their motivation and self-efficacy, the new provisions in the “Dual Credit Quality Act” may actually reduce the quality and rigor of instruction in dual credit programs. Faculty will need to monitor the level of preparedness of students coming in with dual credit to determine whether this change is working in the best interest of students and helping them be more successful.