Another slant on dual enrollment, early college, or whatever the hot new term is for merging high school with the community college. From Slate.
Turns out, however, the 13th grade is not a half-bad idea when that “super senior” year also counts as a free first year of college—as it does in a few rural and exurban school districts in my home state of Oregon. For the students who participate in this optional fifth year, their transition to postsecondary education comes without tuition, but with substantial support and oversight—not only are they required to get periodic progress reports from every professor, every term, but sometimes the very classes they take are housed on that self-same familiar campus.
The program gets its money—and its legality—from allowing the 13th-graders to exist in a sort of definition limbo: They’ve technically completed high school, but they’re not given diplomas yet, which grants them continuing eligibility for the state’s $6,500-per-student allowance—which, it turns out, is enough money to pay for community college tuition, books and lab fees, and have a substantial chunk of change left over for all that support and oversight. Then once they finish the 13th grade, students get that diploma and they can enter college as sophomores.
Don’t kill me, angst-ridden high schoolers—or parents eager to get them out of the house.
The thinking behind the program is that currently, some 50 percent of Oregon residents who enroll in community college don’t even make it through their first year, and that statistic doesn’t account for factors such as class, race, or whether the student is a first-generation collegiate. Meanwhile, in some schools, the 13th-grade program, according to The Oregonian, has a 75 percent success rate. So, for those of us who actually enjoy watching students succeed, the 13th grade is starting to sound less objectionable. (The participating students, for what it’s worth, don’t enjoy having to get the constant progress reports, but do report enjoying their classes.)