The state of Utah should encourage more high school seniors to graduate with a diploma and an associate degree. It's a good use of the state's education resources and a bargain for parents who are relieved from paying full tuition on state college campuses if students take these courses while in high school.
For its many pluses, the concurrent enrollment concept has, over the years, been challenged by tensions over funding and concerns about instructional quality. Recently, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Patti Harrington raised concerns that some state colleges had eliminated important concurrent enrollment classes, some of which are needed for students to graduate from high school with both a diploma and an associate's degree.
Given an appropriate level of funding for this instruction, there should be a meeting of the minds on these affairs. The program saves significant money for the state. Other than application fees, this instruction is essentially free to students and their families.
However, safeguards are needed to ensure that the instruction students receive has the same degree of rigor as classes taught on college campuses. This is important for two reasons: Many of these classes are foundational in nature. Students' future success in college depends on adequate preparation. Second, the state makes a considerable investment in this program. It should receive an appropriate return on its resources.
Presently, a task force of higher-education officials is meeting to discuss these issues. There are some important matters that need to be rectified between the two systems of education. Seemingly, most of these issues can be overcome through discussion and negotiation. It may be helpful, too, for school districts that contract with institutions of higher education to provide these classes to clarify their respective responsibilities.
Concurrent enrollment is a popular program with state lawmakers and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. Given all that, public education and higher-education officials need to come together and smooth out the wrinkles in what has become a very important program for Utah students and their money-pinched parents.