Report calls for expanded access to college courses for high school students

AUGUSTA – A report released Monday outlines a series of steps toward realizing Gov. Paul LePage’s goal of getting more Maine students to take courses for college credit while still in high school and make faster progress toward earning two- and four-year degrees.

The Governor’s Task Force on Expanding Early Post-Secondary Access for High School Students in Maine issued an interim report that offers 10 preliminary recommendations for expanding high school students’ access to early post-secondary opportunities.

In the report, the 19-member task force Gov. LePage established last year by executive order also pledges to continue its work to:

  • Develop detailed policy recommendations;
  • Identify funding sources for early college programs;
  • Explore the viability of various “five-year high school” models that let students earn associate’s degrees within a year of completing high school; and
  • Plan a comprehensive information-gathering and outreach effort that will ultimately allow educators and students access to a centralized source of information on available early college offerings.

“A growing number of Maine’s jobs will require that the people who fill them have some form of post-secondary training under their belt,” said LePage. “We don’t want Maine to miss out on these jobs of the future because our workforce isn’t prepared for them.”

“I’m glad that the task force has volunteered to continue working to give this critical issue the attention it deserves,” the Governor added.

Among the preliminary recommendations in its report, the task force encouraged school districts to better coordinate class and transportation schedules at a regional level to eliminate some of the most common obstacles to students accessing college-level classes. The panel also urged school and college officials to begin using career and technical education centers as hubs for delivering college classes to high school students and transporting students to nearby campuses.

In addition, the task force report calls on colleges to schedule courses at times that are more convenient for high school students. And it challenges schools to expand dual enrollment offerings that allow students to take courses for college credit at their home schools, and support students in accessing online college-level courses.

“Early college classes are a promising strategy for preparing more of our students for the rigors of post-secondary work,” said Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, who noted that the work of the task force is among a series of action steps outlined in the Maine Department of Education’s recently released strategic plan. “Our department is focused on creating an education system that puts the needs of our learners first and supports the seamless transition from one level to the next, including from high school to post-secondary education and careers. More of our students should have the chance to challenge themselves by pursuing college-level work in a supportive environment.”

Research in Maine shows that students who take courses for college credit during high school are more likely than their counterparts to enroll in two- and four-year degree programs following graduation. In fact, research highlighted in the task force report shows that after participating in early post-secondary training, students without previous intentions of enrolling in two- or four-year degree programs are more likely to pursue degrees.

The report by the task force – which has representatives from K-12 education, Maine’s colleges and universities, adult education programs and the Maine Legislature – recognizes that early college participation is already common among Maine’s high school students.

But the group found that barriers in five areas could stand in the way of greater participation: transportation and scheduling; funding and sustainability of programs; school district capacity to facilitate participation in early college classes; access to information about early post-secondary opportunities; and the potential for school, college and state policies to limit student access to early college classes.

Much of the task force’s upcoming work will focus on overcoming those barriers.

The report can be viewed online at www.maine.gov/education/earlycollege/.

David Connerty-Marin | Maine Department of Education | 207-624-6880

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