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College courses for high schoolers get better pricing

By Anna Burleson

Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — The North Dakota University System is making it easier for high school students to earn college credit with a better pricing scheme as soon as this coming school year.

Colleges and schools can start this fall, though they will have until fall 2015 at the latest to make their per-credit prices the same. Currently they can charge whatever they want, with wide variations in prices.

University System officials say having a uniform pricing scheme would level the playing field and allow more students to take the classes that help them succeed in college.

Under the plan, students will pay $65 per credit-hour plus fees for classes taught by university-approved schoolteachers. Students will pay $155 per credit-hour for classes taught by college faculty members. That price will be reviewed annually.

Aimee Copas, director of the North Dakota Council of Education Leaders, said schools are now charging anything from $110 to $230 per credit.

Dual-credit courses are a great way to prepare high school students for what lies ahead, she said. “It’s a really good breeding ground to get them ready for the intensity of collegiate work.”

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Taking the courses, high school students at a sophomore level or higher can earn credits toward graduation from both high school and college. The courses — taught face-to-face, online and via interactive video — cover core areas such as math and science.

For the past five years, an average of 2,690 students have enrolled in dual-credit courses every fall in the North Dakota University System.

The new pricing system came about after dual-credit courses grew so popular that high school teachers were allowed to teach them to cover the shortage of available professors. The teachers had to have proper credentials.

Copas said this disparity in the way classes were taught resulted in a variety rates being charged for the same class. On top of that, colleges began trying to undercut their rivals because students taking dual-credit courses at a college is more likely to attend that college once they graduate.

“It was becoming a scenario where this college was trying to charge a lower rate than another college to get that student,” Copas said.

Officials say the new pricing method is fairer and in line with the requirements of Pathways for Student Success, a University System plan to, among other things, improve graduation rates. One way to do that is to have community colleges teach remedial courses in coordination with high schools so students are better prepared for college. But university officials fear community colleges aren’t equipped to handle the potential influx.

Dual-credit classes, which cover core educational areas, assist in lightening that load.

“They’re able to start to take on that level of speed and rigor ... but they can do that with the support of their high school teachers,” Copas said.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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