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ED 7
Allow Four-year Collegesand Universities to Waive Tuition and Fees for Concurrently Enrolled Students

Summary

“Concurrent” enrollment allows high school students to earn college credit before graduation. State law allows community colleges to waive tuition and fees for students currently enrolled in high school. It does not, however, provide this option for four-year colleges and universities. Given the high success rate of concurrent enrollment and the expanded individual choice that extending the policy would provide, the state should allow four-year institutions to waive tuition and fees for concurrent enrollment courses.

Background

Concurrent enrollment allows high school students to earn college credit before graduation by enrolling in community college classes that award dual high school and college credit. About 38,000 Texas students concurrently enroll in more than 80,000 semester courses each year, and receive credit for 94 percent of them, a significantly higher pass rate than the state average for regular high school courses.[1]

Students typically take these courses on their own high school campuses, although in some cases they may attend class at the college. Either way, concurrently enrolled students become more familiar with the demands and instructional approach of higher education. This familiarity can increase their confidence in handling college-level work and facilitate their planning for college after high school.

State law allows community colleges to waive tuition and fees for concurrently enrolled students, and most large community colleges do so, a factor that can significantly reduce the cost of a college education.[2] Concurrent enrollment also allows students to earn a college degree more quickly.

Community colleges often provide concurrent courses in unused high school classrooms, making it more economical for them to forego tuition and fee income. Such courses also are an important recruiting tool that can encourage students to continue at the community college after high school graduation.

Schools and districts also receive recognition for concurrent enrollment courses in the Gold Performance Acknowledgment category of the Texas Education Agency’s Accountability Rating System, as part of the Advanced Academic Courses indicator.

Finally, concurrent enrollment can benefit state finances as well. The state pays schools the full amount of per-student funding for each student taking four or more hours of high school-only instruction in a class day, and provides half-day funding for students taking at least two, but less than four hours of high school-only courses.[3] A student schedule with concurrent courses, then, can reduce or even eliminate state high school funding for that student.

At present, Texas law does not allow public four-year institutions of higher education to waive tuition and fees for concurrently enrolled students.

Recommendation

State law should be amended to allow Texas public four-year higher education institutions to waive tuition and fees for concurrently enrolled high school students.

This recommendation would increase educational options for students, provide a recruitment tool for four-year institutions and would save student and taxpayer dollars. The institutions would absorb the reduction in income from waived tuition and fees.

Fiscal Impact

To the extent that four-year higher education institutions opt to waive tuition and fees and students respond by enrolling in more concurrent classes, local school district taxpayers could benefit from reduced instructional costs. The state could save money due to reductions in educational funding for participating students. Savings also would accrue to students and parents from lower college costs. Universities that choose to waive tuition and fees for these courses will have to cover the tuition and fee costs of providing the courses. Four-year institutions would gain an important recruiting tool for attracting motivated students. Savings from this recommendation, however, would depend upon future events and cannot be estimated.


Endnotes

[1]Data compiled from the Texas Education Agency’s PEIMS database, August 16, 2002.

[2]Tex. Educ. Code, §130.008.

[3]Texas Education Agency, 2002-2003 Student Attendance Accounting Handbook (Austin, Texas, July 1, 2002), pp. 25-26.