Harrisburg High Schoolers Can Take College Classes for Free!

Stop student debt before it starts: send your kids to Harrisburg High School so they can take college classes for free!

Harrisburg SD Tiger scholar
Hit the books, Tigers!

The early college program is possible through an agreement between Harrisburg schools and the South Dakota Board of Regents.

The regents will allow the district to pay for the early college courses at the same rate as dual-credit courses, which give students both high school and college credit.

Most recently, that rate was set at about $48 per credit, deeply discounted from the approximately $300 per credit hour for South Dakota students who enroll in state universities after graduating high school.

In dual-credit courses, students pay for their credits. In Harrisburg’s early college program, the school will pay the $48 per credit to the public universities [Megan Raposa, “Harrisburg to Offer Free College Courses to High School Students,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.08.21].

Students, here’s your math problem to work on while you take those free college classes: Suppose you can take a full freshman year’s worth of college classes for free at Harrisburg. Calculate the lifetime savings you’ll enjoy by reducing your college loan debt by 25%. Calculate the additional savings of being able to graduate from college a year early and thus avoid the tuition increase of what would have been your fourth year on campus. Calculate the additional earning power you’ll get from entering the workforce a year earlier. Finally, calculate the additional savings you can have for your own children’s college fund 20 to 30 years from now by investing the money you save on tuition this year plus the early money you’ll make after your early university graudation at average market rates.

Or, if you take seriously my postscript to my eclipse post, just figure out how many world capitals you can visit on the money Harrisburg and the Regents will save you on college classes.

Readers, here’s your policy problem to work on today: identify anything—anything!—wrong with this great opportunity that the Harrisburg school board and the Regents are offering to high school students.


11 Responses to Harrisburg High Schoolers Can Take College Classes for Free!

  1. The only problem I can see is that if the classes in high school fail to contain the same level of academic rigor as provided on campus. Dumb down the classes in high school and these students will be less prepared for higher-level courses.

  2. One problem I can see is the over-selling of too many college credits. Those credits are a great deal IF/WHEN they make progress toward the academic success of the future college student, but if they are not accepted in some programs or are all pigeonholed as “electives,” then even the reduced cost of $48.00 (to the district, not the student) is a waste. Sometimes even buying “on sale” is not a good deal if it is not needed or helpful.

  3. At first I thought the idea of Dual Enrollment was a great opportunity for the student. Now I am starting to seriously wonder if, in fact, it is good for the student, college and the high school. . .
    1) Take AP Calculus as an example: Two years ago the majority of South Dakota High Schools offered AP Calculus. Now less than 20%. That is a huge drop in just two years.
    2) A high school student taking AP Calc had a full year to master the class. In college they have 15 weeks to learn the same material. What is a failure rate of the kids taking it in high school compared to college?
    3) The high school that once offered AP Calc now has an empty block where they no longer need a teacher. What happens to that teachers job?
    4) The college that offers the Calc class now has even more students to deal with. Since the state is offering the class for significantly less money than its regular classes where does the money come from to pay the teacher, infrastructure and other incidental costs?

    I have yet to see any studies on the outcome and success/failure of dual enrollment. It would be interesting to see before academia rushes headlong into this like they did constructionism.

  4. If the cost is really $300, then the regular college kids are subsidizing the highschool kids. Nothing is free.

  5. If the regular college kids aren’t subsidizing the highschool kids, then the tax dollars that are collected from those sinful video lottery devices are being put to good use. We should encourage more video lottery.

  6. The lottery money goes into the general fund. Less than half of the general fund goes to education: https://bfm.sd.gov/budget/BiB/SD_BIB_FY2016.pdf

  7. I did find a study from Washington state on dual enrollment. The outcome was not what I expected. In fact they are much worse.

    In Washington state they call the Dual Enrollment program “Running Start”. Now this is just an example from a quick read but the statement was revealing: “Compared to similar students, Running Start participants are less likely to earn a traditional high school diploma and more likely to drop out of school. Specifically, the point estimates suggest that Running Start students are 2.3 percentage points less likely to earn a credit-based diploma, 1.1 percentage points more likely to drop out of school and 0.4 percentage points more likely to earn a GED.”

    I’ll keep reading to see if there is more eye opening information.

  8. Ok, it appears students who participate in dual enrollment are: 1) less likely to graduate from high school, 2) attend a 4 year college, 3) are no more likely to attend college full time than student that did not participate in dual enrollment, 4) low-acheiveing student are more likely to attend college but their failure to complete college degree increases.

    Over all it appears from this study, the first I have found, shows dual enrollment is a failure. http://cedr.us/papers/working/CEDR%20WP%202014-7.pdf

    Now it may be the goal of South Dakota’s dual enrollment is to increase attendance at South Dakota colleges regardless of the students success in which case makes it more about more money for our colleges than education for the student.

  9. If the stats show dual-enrollers are less likely to graduate, matriculate, or complete degrees, that’s a call to the smart kids to use the system wisely.

    Suka Sapa’s concern at the top is valid—the Regents have an obligation to make sure the courses the high school students take are as rigorous as what on-campus students take. Of course, if the Harrisburg kids are taking classes through the SF University Center alongside adult undergrads, then the problem is not unique to high schoolers; it’s just the general problem the Regents face of ensuring rigor is not sacrificed for higher enrollment.

    O’s concern is on the money, too. Taking college classes early is great, but there won’t be any real savings if the kids don’t have solid guidance in choosing classes, a clear vision of what degree program they are after, and the opportunity to take classes that fit into that degree track.

    College isn’t for everyone. Early college classes aren’t for every high schooler. But for the high school kids who know what they want and have charged through all of their HS requirements to get it, the Regents should make serious, degree-targeting classes available to help ambitious kids realize the savings I envision above.

  10. “College isn’t for everyone” I agree and one’s maturity level has a lot to do with it as well. I certainly wasn’t ready my freshman year at Black Hills and my grades proved it. After I had grown up some, 10 years later, the Mines was a great experience but I was married by that time and felt I needed to better support my young family.

    I honestly think that our youth would be better served if, instead of steering them towards typical college classes such as sociology, English 101 and whatever, the students were offered trade qualifying courses like are found at VoTech. Then they would at least have acquired some actual skills and be better able to contribute to their communities.

  11. The article indicated that Harrisburg is looking to make a similar deal with Southeast Tech.

    As for maturity level dealing with college readiness, that’s more a concern with being ready for the total college experience—being out on one’s own, making decisions about groceries, expenses, work, etc. I would speculate there are plenty of HS-age kids who can successfully complete college classes who maybe aren’t ready to give live on their own yet.

    Of course, there are some HS-age kids who are ready for adult life who still are better served by taking vo-tech classes, serving in the military, or going to work than pursuing a college degree.

    HS doesn’t have to steer kids to college who shouldn’t go there. But offering degree-track college classes for free is a great opportunity for kids ready to take advantage of it.