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Recommendation: Make dual enrollment classes free across Virginia

Last school year almost 50,000 Virginia students took one or more college courses while still in high school.

Dual enrollment is a way for those students to get ahead before even starting college. Now lawmakers are considering how to make access more equitable.

The majority of students who take dual enrollment classes do so for free. But plenty others, 42%, pay at least some amount for it. It all depends on the school district.

A recent review of the system found that shouldn’t be necessary.


Brittany Utz, an analyst with the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, told lawmakers this week the state provides plenty of funding to both community colleges and school districts to support free dual enrollment for all students. “Eliminating tuition and fees would make student access to dual enrollment more consistent across the state and would particularly improve access for economically disadvantaged students,” Utz said. “Economically disadvantaged students have the lowest participation rates on average in dual enrollment programs that have higher tuition and fees. Eliminating tuition fees would remove this financial barrier and make dual enrollment courses more accessible for these students.” 

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Delegate Terry Austin, a Republican from Botetourt County, says he’s happy to see that proposal before lawmakers. “The people that are suffering the most are the students who don't have the ability, their parents don’t have the ability to pay," Austin noted. "And they should not be affected that way in the Commonwealth.”

Researchers found that community colleges often use profits from dual enrollment to subsidize more expensive programs like nursing and welding.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is a Radio IQ reporter based in Richmond.