Heartland Community College said high school students across central Illinois have saved $4.9 million in community college tuition and fees with dual credit courses through their high schools over the last five years. Sixteen high schools participate in the program with HCC.
Alauna Akins is the associate director of secondary education partnerships at Heartland Community College.
"I have the figure for the last three years and I think it was a little bit over $500,000 that Unit 5 families and students have saved in tuition and fees. That's good news," said Akins at Unit 5's school board meeting Wednesday evening.
Dan Lamboley, Unit 5's director of secondary education, said it's not just the subject matter that helps, it's learning how to learn in a rigorous environment.
"Research is showing us increasingly that access to dual credit in ELA (English Language Arts) and math junior or senior year has a positive effect on the success of students in preparing them for college or career," said Lamboley.
Lamboley said colleges evaluate dual credit on student records favorably, along with other factors such as ACT scores, 95 percent attendance rates, participation in co-curricular activities, summer jobs, community service, and AP courses.
"Colleges want kids to take the most challenging coursework available to them," said Unit 5 Board Vice President Amy Roser.
The program has Heartland coordinate academic requirements for some general education and technical classes, while Unit 5 teachers deliver instruction.
Unit 5 school board members note the financial benefit might be even larger than Heartland Community College estimates based on HCC credit hour charges. They note if a student gets college credit at a more expensive university or college, the estimate would be low.
Unit 5 school board member Mike Trask applauded the success of the program, but expressed concerns that in the last two years male student participation has fallen, and minority student use of dual credit offerings is low.
That is even though the program was tuition free after the second year of the program.
Lamboley said he also believes adjusting the program to make sure those who are allowed to enter will be successful.
Akins said the general education courses are aligned with the Illinois articulation agreement, meaning most colleges and universities in the state will accept that credit.
"And universities outside Illinois are poaching dual credit students and are copying the Illinois program," said Akins.
Heartland and Unit 5 administrators said they hope to expand the program. It has grown from four courses in 2013 to 15 courses in the 2019-2020 school year.
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