Along with many AP courses and other advanced programs, East Lansing High School students have the option to take higher-level classes at local colleges, such as MSU and LCC, a process known as dual enrollment.
Many advanced students take advantage of this opportunity, often upperclassmen, who have exhausted the school’s offerings in a subject area. There are opportunities for taking classes in almost any subject, but the majority of enrolled students take classes in English, World Languages, or Math, which are the tracks the most students finish before their senior year.
In terms of their reasons for choosing dual enrollment, students often cite the completion of offered courses in the subject, and the desire to learn more, including for college preparedness. Senior Caroline Baidoon, for instance, says that she chose to take a college class in Spanish because she wants “to continue taking Spanish classes in college, and [has] been thinking about earning a minor in it.”
Baidoon added that “the grasp one has on a foreign language can be easily loosened if they do not frequently speak, read and/or write in that language. Going through a school year without any exposure to Spanish was not something I wanted to do. “
Senior Hudson Brett explained that “high school didn't offer courses that [he] thought would continue to challenge [him]” in English and Math, and so went on to the next step of college classes, in his case at MSU, a reason shared by Senior Catherine Schertzing, who finished ELHS’s English offerings due to her earlier enrollment in the accelerated ISHALL program.
One major issue that comes up in terms of dual enrollment is scheduling, as college classes often overlap regularly scheduled high school courses. This writer, for example, is taking an English course at MSU and misses a certain high school class twice a week. Brett also missed classes during his course, but explained that “most of the teachers were pretty understanding” and that one, Heather Mueller, even went over what he had missed in class after each session (twice a week.)
For some, missing classes is not even an issue. Baidoon’s course was offered from 4-6pm, after ELHS was let out. Schertzing didn’t miss class either, in her case because she elected to dual enroll in online college courses, removing the scheduling conflict altogether.
Most dual enrolled students are also given “free hours” at the high school - time when they can work on the coursework for their class (or for other classes) instead of attending another high school course.
Another potential issue faced by these students is the practical aspect of being a high school student in a college class. Both Baidoon and Brett say they felt, overall, comfortable in the class and on campus. In fact, Brett says he felt even more comfortable in a college environment than at high school, due to the level of academic competitiveness.
That said, Brett acknowledged certain instances of discomfort, especially in “discussion-based classes when MSU students sometimes used high school as an example of an ignorant environment,” as his peers did not know that he was, in fact, a high school student himself. Further, he once was “cornered” by classmates after wearing Ohio State merchandise to a lecture.
Baidoon’s experience was fairly different. She didn’t have a lot of discussion in her class, which had a diversity of ages- from freshmen to seniors. Academically, she reports, “I didn't feel like I was at an advantage or disadvantage; I was able to easily communicate with my fellow students and my teacher when I had questions and when we engaged in discussion.” In all, she was happy with the opportunity to “[get] a taste of what school will be like for me for the next four years” Schertzing did not participate in a live classroom environment, but reported that “always felt [she] was on the same footing” as her classmates, despite their age gap.
Another common theme was the cost, with several students feeling that it was a serious detractor, and for some an entire reason not to dual-enroll. This drawback was especially apparent when discussing Michigan State, where prices are considerably higher than LCC, or other college-level opportunities. ELHS does pay part of the course costs, if the class or an equivalent isn’t offered in the school.
A financial positive, though, is the fact that dual enrolled students begin to rack up college credits before graduating. This is a major draw, and a reason that for many the cost is worth it - AP classes, dual enrollment can put students on track to start college ahead of their peers, with some entering with almost a year’s worth of credits and waivers.
In the end, every student I interviewed had a positive impression of dual enrollment, saying that they would take another class if they could, and would recommend it to a friend. Still, they cautioned that college classes were a serious obligation, and suggested that students shouldn’t sign up unless they are, as Brett says, “willing to lose a lot of sleep” studying, and were sure they had a reliable way to get to their class every week.