LIMA — Local superintendents agree that while College Credit Plus is overall providing more positives than negatives, there are also problems that still need ironed out as more and more students participate.
Ohio’s College Credit Plus program allows students to earn college and high school credits at the same time by taking college courses from community colleges or universities. The purpose of the program is to promote rigorous academic pursuits and to provide a wide variety of options to college-ready students. Taking a college course from a public college or university is free to the students. There is no cost for tuition, books or fees if you attend public school in the state of Ohio. If students choose to attend a private college or are homeschooled, there may be limited costs.
Sometimes high schools have an agreement with a local college for specific courses. However, they have the option to choose to take College Credit Plus courses from any college that offers a course that would benefit their future. This could include online courses.
CCP official replaced the former system of Dual Enrollment, sometimes also known as Post Secondary Enrollment Option, on Sept. 15, 2014.
“In totality, the College Credit Plus program has a lot more positives than negatives,” said Mel Rentschler, Allen East superintendent. “That being said, there are problems with the program.”
Rentschler said Ohio officials were well-intentioned when it dropped the PSEO program and replaced it with College Credit Plus. However, CCP has consequences to PK-12 school budgets.
“When I attend CCP meetings, colleges and parents repeatedly say that this is a great program because it is ‘free,’” Rentschler said. “This is not a free program.”
For instance, Rentschler said that schools are required to pay for all course fees and books for every student. In some instances, a college bookstore may charge districts as much as $300 for a single book. Usually, the district will return the book to the college bookstore and receive a fraction of the $300 back. This past semester, Alen East had a cost of $16,000, and that number is climbing every semester.
“In a PK-12 environment, spending $16,000 on books is normal,” Rentschler said, “but we as a school can get up to five years out of the books unlike with CCP only getting one semester use out of the book. Most importantly, Allen East does not have any control over the costs of books and fees and it makes it very difficult to budget and plan.”
Schools are also charged tuition for each student in CCP. State prices are set in one of three ways. Prices are set for $166 per semester hour when a student attends the university for a course. The cost is $83 for classes taught at high schools with an adjunct professor, or high schools have the option of using their own faculty if they are certified to teach at the college level at $41.50 per semester hour. The costs have a built-in inflation factor annually.
“The general public does not realize is that students are leaving the high school to take courses at college,” Rentschler said. “Some Allen East teachers will eventually have to be laid off.“
Bath superintendent Dale Lewellen agreed that the program is positive for students, but problems are rearing as more and more students participate.
“The state wanted to make sure there was consistency and rigor with the classes when they took over,” Lewellen said.
Lewellen said another problem is students that participate in CCP usually are not taking the same classes at the same times.
“It usually is not enough to cut a teacher from our staff,” Lewellen said. “We could save money that way, but it simply is not enough students. We have to maintain our learning atmosphere in our classes with student-teacher ratio.”
Waynesfield-Goshen superintendent Chris Pfister said there are other challenges.
“Every college has entrance criteria, but they can waive it,” Pfister said. “If a student has the ability to take college classes, I want them to take it.”
However, Pfister said students may take classes that don’t necessarily benefit their career path, or the tougher classes may affect student’s GPA.
“There was a student who had a C in a class and a parent called with concerns,” Pfister said. “They were afraid they might fail. At that point, there isn’t a whole lot that can be done.”
Pfister said capacity aid is available for low-wealth districts which is helping immensely with finances. He is hoping state legislators keep the aid available when the new state budget is approved in July.
“If they keep the current funding model in place,” Pfister said, “we can continue.”
Rhodes State College vice president of student affairs John Berry said the college had 2,348 students participate in CCP in 2015-2016, the vast majority of them taking classes taught by accredited faculty members. He said overall, the long-term commitment by the state to the program is proving successful so far. Costs paid to Rhodes for the program last year were about $2.2 million.
“Students are usually staying in the high school campus environment,” Berry said. “They don’t have the transportation costs and they are in familiar surroundings.”
Rhodes is currently partnering with more than 100 school districts with CCP. So far, Berry said students are have averaged a 3.4 GPA in the CCP program.
“We are very pleased with the success ratio,” Berry said.
So while CCP is here to stay, area superintendents hope that problems are ironed out as more and more students continue to take college courses.
“There are a lot of positives to the program,” Rentschler said. “The program exposes kids to college level courses and allows parents and students to save money for college expenses. However, I do not believe the local community intended on paying for a student’s college when they are paying property tax. I believe most people are in full support of funding the Allen East Local School District, not a large state university or even a private college using their local property taxes. My biggest complaint other than the financial aspect is the lack of control we as a school district has over the program. Allen East cannot veto a class a student is taking. The college course may have nothing to do with any of the curriculum we offer at Allen East but students are capable of taking the college course. For instance, students are taking college courses such as CrossFit and self defense even though their physical education requirements are already met at Allen East.”
Rentschler said he feels money should come directly from the state and not local tax funds.
“I would also like to see the Board of Regents who sets standards for who can or cannot teach college level courses relax their credentialing standards so more high school level teachers can teach college level courses at Allen East,” Rentschler said. “This would allow more of our students to take the courses at Allen East and save the district a substantial amount of money.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter@LanceMihm