Quality high school dual enrollment programs save families thousands in tuition
Kirkwood Community College has earned an important national accreditation for college-level classes offered to local high school students.
The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), a national peer-reviewed accrediting body that safeguards the quality of concurrent enrollment options, last week announced Kirkwood’s accreditation after a lengthy review process. College-level classes offered to high school students are termed “concurrent” or “dual credit” programs because they fulfill both high school and college academic credit.
“Iowa community colleges have had quality concurrent enrollment programs for a number of years, but preparing for NACEP accreditation has helped colleges demonstrate to the public that these offerings are of high quality,” stated Jeremy Varner, education program consultant at the Iowa Department of Education. “The NACEP process has helped concurrent enrollment programs obtain the institutional resources to better involve faculty and provide greater oversight of the programs.”
The Iowa state legislature recently mandated national accreditation of concurrent enrollment programs. NACEP was chosen by the state’s community college presidents as the accreditation body because of its reputation and high quality standards.
“NACEP accreditation validates the quality and rigor of our dual credit high school offerings,” said Todd Prusha, dean of Distance Learning and Secondary Programs at Kirkwood. “The accreditation process required Kirkwood to provide extensive evidence that the college credit courses we offer in the high schools are equal in every way to what’s offered on our campus. This process has provided an opportunity to systematically strengthen and enrich the relationships between our high school partners and the academic departments on campus that offer college credit.”
To earn accreditation from NACEP, concurrent enrollment programs conduct a self-study, document how their programs adhere to NACEP’s 17 standards, and are evaluated by peer reviewers from NACEP-accredited programs. Kirkwood was judged on criteria such as instructor preparation and qualifications, curriculum alignment, student services, assessment and evaluation.
“Kirkwood, often looked up to as a leader in Iowa for groundbreaking concurrent enrollment programs, has offered classes to local high schoolers for 20-plus years,” Prusha continued.”Accreditation proves Kirkwood’s longstanding commitment to quality.”
Dual credit classes are offered at no cost to high school students and can be taken at the students’ schools or at Kirkwood, depending upon faculty availability, lab requirements, space factors and transportation availability. The credits are fully-transferrable, meaning they articulate to nearly any college. Therefore, students taking advantage of these programs save themselves and their families thousands in tuition dollars every year.
“The new Kirkwood Regional Centers present a wealth of opportunity for more and more students to take advantage of the tremendous dual credit program,” Prusha said. “Students from Kirkwood’s entire seven-county region, rural and urban alike, will have the chance to get hands-on training in many academic areas at these centers.”