Gov. Steve Bullock is working on a plan to improve Montana's college graduation rates -- right now they're at 40 percent.
Tuesday afternoon Bullock was in Missoula touring the high schools and talking to students and staff about ways to increase college credits earned while still in high school, using a system called dual enrollment or dual crediting.
Bullock hopes the idea will help raise college graduation rates in Montana to 60 percent in the next ten years.
The governor tells us he’s pushing for dual enrollment programs to expand across the state so students can get college credits without the big price tag, and also get a jump start on their career.
“There were some great points brought up here that you may be getting the college credit for half the cost if you were at the university but at the same token $50 a credit for a lot of families is a heck of a lot in high school,” says Bullock. “We need to address that and look at what some of the other communities and states are doing to try and really make it so that the availability is for every student.”
Hellgate High School senior Daylen Turk says while attaining credit at a high school level may be cheaper than doing so at a college level the cost is still too high.
“When I heard about the possibility for dual credit I was like, ‘OK, this is great because I’m going to the U so this is going to be really convenient,’” says Turk. “But I live in a really low income family so even though it’s a really great deal for $50 a credit I still can't afford it, so it’s not a possibility, so that's one reason why I myself didn't take dual credit.”
Superintendent of Missoula Schools Alex Apostle says transitioning credits from high school to college should be a fluid system.
“For example our Health Science Academy should flow right into the School of Nursing, the International Baccalaureate should flow right into the Universities Global Leadership Program,” says Apostle. “Currently the Digital Multimedia Academy that’s being formulated at Sentinel -- they're working closely with the School of Journalism.”
Overall Apostle says the process of obtaining college credits in high school shouldn’t be cumbersome.
“It shouldn't be confusing for our staff, students or parents to understand how important and appropriate it should be to obtain dual credit,” says Apostle.
“The more opportunities there are for dual credits in high school not only helps families basically get a jump on paying for college but it will also help some of those students who didn't know that they were college material,” says Bullock. “If their first college class is in a high school they're much more likely to go on to get a 2- or 4-year degree.”
According MCPS board members there are currently 378 Missoula high school students taking dual credit classes at their high school. That’s up from 266 students last year.
“It’s great to see the growth here that's occurred in Missoula schools. I mean you have over 300 students taking dual enrollment classes, so that part is exciting,” says Bullock. “Making sure that we’re trying to remove some of the barriers so that there's no student saying 'Oh I wish I could have taken that class,’ that’s what we’re after.”
Bullock tells us he's going to use all of the feedback he gets to keep pushing for statewide dual enrollment expansion.