There is nothing at all wrong with high-school students enrolling in college courses if they are ready to take them. Sadly, though, state governments have chosen to set up programs to encourage this, along with money for colleges (especially community colleges) that “help” high-school students by allowing them to do some of their college credits while still in high school. Now we have an incentive for that nasty trio called Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.
In this new Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins looks at North Carolina’s “dual enrollment” program and finds that there is a lot of skullduggery going on. Under state law, only high-school students who have at least a 3.0 GPA are eligible, but some community colleges are enrolling students with GPAs as low as 1.7. Why? Because it means more state funding coming their way.
Watkins interviewed an instructor at Cleveland Community College: “She said that many ill-prepared high school students are allowed to take college courses, and that leaders at her institution ignore the problem because of an obsessive focus on increasing enrollment. Bullock claims that instructors, feeling pressure from both college and high school administrators, let students filter through substandard classes.”
When some faculty members have tried to blow the whistle, they have been abused — employment terminated. Unfortunately, trustees who are supposed to exert oversight don’t seem to care much about what is going on.
This illustrates the fact that when government meddles in education, it creates lots of bad incentives.
Summing up, Watkins writes, “In the case of the state’s dual enrollment program, such wrongdoing could impact more than school employees such as Ginger Bullock. High school students may be lulled into a false sense of academic accomplishment, only to learn later that they really aren’t prepared for more rigorous college coursework or career training. Those underprepared students are most likely to drop out and struggle with college loan debt.”
Dual-enrollment programs sound good, but like most government programs that sound good, they create a host of unseen problems.