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May 24, 2010 (512) 463-0300

MORE HIGH SCHOOLERS EARNING COLLEGE CREDITS

(AUSTIN)—More high school students are taking advantage of college courses before graduation to earn college credit, but poorer students are still lagging behind their more affluent peers, according to testimony offered before a Senate panel Monday. Members of the Senate's Education and Higher Education Committees met in joint session to gauge the effectiveness and scope of the state's dual course credit program, which seeks to give students a head start on college before they get a high school diploma. Education Committee Chair Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano said the state needs to find ways to make it easier for students to get into these courses. "We are putting in place too many hurdles for those students to get there," she said.

According to Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Raymond Paredes, more and more students are enrolling in dual credit courses, with the greatest growth seen among minority students. Increasing numbers of economically disadvantaged students are enrolling, and now make up about a third of students in dual credit programs, but are still underrepresented when compared to the total proportion of economically disadvantaged students. Paredes said that students that take dual credit courses are more likely to enroll at a four-year university and that these courses make college more affordable for students and their families.

Although dual credit coursework has increased dramatically over the past decade, Paredes testified that the program lacks consistency state-wide. Some areas of the state offer more in terms of structural and financial support for students looking to take college courses than others. "We know there are differences in support services across the state that yield different results," said Paredes. "We have to make sure every child has an opportunity to do as well in dual-credit courses as possible."

The Senate Education Committee's next meeting is scheduled for June 16, where members will consider state special education programs. The Senate Higher Education Committee is slated to look at developmental education and community college service areas at its next meeting, scheduled for June 24. Both meetings will be held at the State Capitol Extension in Austin.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.

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