Dual Enrollment at MSU Becoming More Affordable for ELHS Students

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Raymond Holt for ELi

ELPS Board Vice President and MSU Professor Terah Chambers at the Jan. 27, 2020, meeting of the school board.

Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college-level courses for credit, but the road to taking one course for both high school and college credit is often riddled with financial and bureaucratic obstacles.

According to Janet Wyant of East Lansing High School’s Student Services, sticker shock is often an issue with dual enrollment.

But now, following negotiations between the MSU administration and ELPS School Board Vice President Terah Chambers, the financial burden might be lessened.

Chambers recently spoke to ELi about the issue, explaining that MSU had traditionally charged ELHS students who dual-enrolled its highest tuition rates.

MSU tuition rates vary depending on residency status (in-state, out-of-state, or international), number of credits, and level (undergraduate or graduate). Lifelong learners – meaning those enrolled in MSU courses but not working toward a particular degree – are assessed the highest price.

MSU had required ELHS students to pay lifelong learner rates of approximately $750 per credit, instead of the in-state resident rate of approximately $500 per credit.

When those numbers are multiplied by three – the usual number of credits for a college course – the price tag differential only becomes more pronounced: an ELHS senior would pay $2,250 for a college course that would cost only $1,500 if they enrolled in MSU the following year.

ELHS does help students defray the cost of courses at MSU. According to Chambers, ELHS pays MSU $600 per course, as required by Michigan law. Here’s the reason: Public schools in Michigan receive $600 per student per course. Since the student taking a class at MSU is foregoing an ELHS course in favor of the MSU course, ELHS forwards the money on to MSU.

Chambers, who is a professor at MSU’s College of Education, has been able to get the university to agree to only charge the in-state rate for ELHS students beginning this fall.

But she is pushing MSU to go further: she wants MSU to charge ELPS students only the $600 that ELPS forwards on from the state.

“MSU should be a state-serving institution,” said Chambers. She continued to call for MSU to “act like a good neighbor” not only to East Lansing but also to the other districts in the area.

“The number of [ELPS] students taking classes [at MSU] is so small,” she said. “It’s not a financial issue [for MSU].”

According to Susan Sheth, the Director of Gifted and Talented Education, which oversees dual enrollment at MSU, MSU currently has 65 applications for over 100 classes. This represents a tiny fraction of MSU student enrollment.

Chambers notes that MSU is being shown up by the University of Michigan, since UM only charges students what Ann Arbor Public Schools could pay.

The University of Michigan’s website suggests that Ann Arbor students may attend UM courses for free if it is only for high school credit. Students must pursue dual enrollment to earn college credit.

ELi is awaiting comment from Chambers to see if ELPS would be amenable to a similar program with MSU.

Eleven ELHS students are expected to be dually enrolled during the Fall 2020 semester, and all the people ELi spoke with about this issue acknowledged that other factors affect the ability of students to pursue dual enrollment.

Transportation costs are not covered by either institution. While ELHS students can enroll at LCC and incur a lower out-of-pocket cost, transportation poses an issue since students would generally need to drive or take a bus – not walk – between classes.

State laws also mandate that students who are dually enrolled only take courses that are not offered at their high school. Students can also take college courses if they have pursued all available courses at ELHS. For example, a student who has taken all courses available in a particular language at the high school can continue their language education at MSU.

Wyatt from ELHS also pointed to the bureaucratic challenges of working with MSU.

“MSU is not able to send ELPS a list of students that are enrolled or their status,” she said. “In order to find out and confirm that all requested students are in fact registered, I must send a list of who I show. In turn, if a student is not on my list, they are not able to tell me.”

And, of course, ELHS students must apply for the dual enrollment program and meet certain criteria.

In the end, dual enrollment remains in theory a great idea and in practice a continued challenge in certain respects.

Students and families interested in dual enrollment can find out more here.

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