Getting Accepted for Dual Enrollment Classes – Now What?

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I wanted to take a break today from talking about all of the doom and gloom around the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggling world economy. While that is important, I can really only take so much of it.

Instead I want to focus on a topic that I have been writing about for a while now … helping our kids pay for college.

Like many other people, I like to refer to this as college hacking.

Basically … it is a way to try and hack the price of college to limit the amount it will cost to earn a degree. This could be hacking the price of tuition or room and board, books, etc.

My wife and I were fortunate to have parents that both helped us graduate with 4-year degrees with very little debt. Then we both went on to earn Master’s degrees … again graduating with very little debt.

Now in the next chapter of our lives … we have 3 kids and our goal is to help each of them graduate with a 4-year college degree debt free. This means no debt for them and definitely no debt for us.

Our oldest is 16 years old (at the time of this writing), so we are experiencing first hand what it takes to start saving on future college expenses.

One of these college tuition hacks that I have discussed several times here in the past is known as dual enrollment.

What is Dual Enrollment?

I have discussed this many times already, but will offer a quick recap of what dual enrollment is.

To summarize … dual enrollment courses allow high school students the opportunity to take college level courses early. Most of the time, these courses are taught at a local community college or university.

In many cases, your state or local school district will cover expenses like tuition for these classes.

Normally these classes are offered to juniors and seniors, provided they meet certain academic criteria.

For more information, check out the U.S. Department of Education ​resource on​​​ dual enrollment.

Please note – these programs are offered at the state level and many of the rules can vary.

Our oldest son is in a school district (and state) that offers dual enrollment … and it is one of the tools we plan to use to help pay for his college tuition.

Now that you have a basic understanding of dual enrollment, I’d like to share our latest experience with our son.

Accepted into Dual Enrollment Program

Earlier this week, we received an acceptance letter to the local community college for our son to take dual enrollment classes next fall.

We had been expecting his acceptance into the program … as he met all the required criteria. It was just a matter of getting the acceptance letter. It turns out the acceptance letters went out late due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Simultaneously … he began registering for his junior year classes for his high school.

Assuming schools and colleges start back up in time (August 2020) … our son will start his dual enrollment classes (along with high school classes) in the fall. This will be the first opportunity for him to earn actual college credit.

The only costs for students (assuming they have a passing grade) are books for the class. The school district covers the cost of tuition and student fee’s.

Registering for Dual Enrollment Classes

Initially I reported that our son was eligible to take 6 dual enrollment classes between his junior and senior years.

Plus there is an opportunity to take additional classes the summer between his junior and senior year. And he could continue taking classes the summer after high school graduation.

All of these classes will have his tuition fully covered and the student is responsible to pay for books.

We figured that he could take between 6 to 10 dual enrollment classes before he started off to college … assuming he’d take a few summer classes.

However, we recently learned that he can also take additional dual enrollment classes that count for certain electives to graduate high school.

So in reality, as long as he meets his core requirements of classes to graduate high school, the remaining classes can be taken as dual enrollment!

This will hopefully save us a bunch more money and will allow him to earn his 4-year degree even sooner.

How Many Dual Enrollment Classes?

Now, based on the state and school district graduation requirements, our son will take the following dual enrollment courses –

  • 2 courses – fall semester junior year
  • 2 courses – winter semester junior year
  • 3 courses – fall senior year
  • 3 courses – winter senior year

Students can actually take 3 dual enrollment courses each semester their junior and senior years of high school. The only limitations are that they meet state graduation requirements and take at least 1 course each semester at their high school.

Note – Our son’s high school operates on a schedule of 4 courses each semester for a total of 8 for the entire year.

My wife, son, and I decided that it would be best to ease into the dual enrollment classes his junior year instead of overdoing it. He could take 3 classes each semester but we have decided on 2 … which will still give him a lot of opportunity to earn college credit.

Based on these new requirements, we figure our son will now take between 10 and 14 dual enrollment classes before he starts college! This assumes he will take a few summer classes as well.

And again … the only thing we will need to help pay for are textbooks and student fee’s the summer after graduation.

Dual Enrollment is the Ultimate College Hack

From what I can tell, dual enrollment may be the ultimate way to help keep the cost of college low.

For example … a student that attends my son’s school can earn credit for 12 college courses between his/her junior and senior years. Add in a few summer classes and this student could be well on their way to earning an Associates Degree at a fraction of the regular cost.

Our plan is to use dual enrollment as much as possible … hopefully for all 3 of our kids.

We plan to use this in combination with 529 plans, AP courses, and anything else that comes our way to help drive the cost of college down for our 3 kids.

What experience have you had with dual enrollment for either yourself or your kids?

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