Starting in fall 2014, Montana teachers who instruct dual-enrollment classes — which offer students both high school and college credits simultaneously — will earn coupons to pay for their own college credits.
Gov. Steve Bullock, Lt. Gov. Angela McLean and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian announced the new credit-for-credit pilot program on Thursday at Helena High School. The program will be funded by the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.
The program comes after Bullock announced in his State of the State address that he wants to see the number of Montanans with a college degree or career certificate rise from a current level of 40 percent to a goal of 60 percent in the next decade.
“It not only saves the students time, it also saves the families money,” Bullock said. “We know that’s going to make a meaningful, meaningful difference in our overall economy and job opportunities our graduates have.”
Under the pilot program, which will last two years, a teacher with a master’s degree who teaches a class for dual credits will receive a coupon to pay for an equal number of credits that can be used at a Montana university, community college or tribal college. For example, if a teacher teaches a class worth three college credits, he or she gets a coupon to pay for three college credits.
Almost 300 teachers in Montana are eligible to teach dual-enrollment classes, Bullock said.
The coupons teachers earn are transferable, meaning a teacher can give them to a family member or student.
The number of high school students enrolled in dual-enrollment classes rose by 50 percent in the last year, but only 30 percent of those classes take place in the classroom. The remaining 70 percent are done online. The cost of taking a dual-enrollment class is around half the price of enrolling at a college or university.
By incentivizing with the credit-for-credit program, the state hopes to get more teachers and students involved in dual-credit programs, and also increase in-classroom instruction.
Attracting more students to dual-enrollment classes has two goals, Bullock said. The first is to encourage students who may not think they are college material to get some experience at the college level. The second is to give students who do intend to go to college the opportunity to reduce the time and expenses required to earn a degree.
The Board of Regents has long had dual enrollment as one of its top priorities, Christian said.
“If we can keep seniors in high school engaged in high-value courses that ultimately reduce their time and cost in college, I think that’ll be incredibly productive,” he said.
When officials looked at ways to incentivize teaching dual enrollment, there were complications with offering teachers pure compensation, and the pilot program is a creative solution to offer teachers something of value, Christian said.
McLean, who taught public school in Anaconda before Bullock named her lieutenant governor a little over 100 days ago, said she wants to see dual enrollment opened up to students in all of the state’s 56 counties.
“This is the single most expansive effort to grow student enrollment I think in the state’s history,” she said. “It’s extraordinary, and it’s about creating opportunities for all students in all places of Montana.”