New college accreditation requirements may affect concurrent high school classes

There are big worries at the Minnesota Capitol about changes that could affect concurrent enrollment classes in high schools, which can save families thousands of dollars in future education expenses. The concern is that a crackdown on teacher qualifications could jeopardize many of those classes.

What are concurrent enrollment classes?

These are not AP classes, which require a test for potential college credit. Concurrent enrollment classes are actual college courses that students can take while they are in high school. Currently, the Department of Education says 24,000 students are enrolled in one of these classes.

The concern

At a Capitol hearing Thursday, the Higher Learning Commission president says in 2017 it will start enforcing an existing rule requiring instructors teaching concurrent enrollment classes to have at least 18 master’s degree credits in the field that they are teaching.

“We don’t feel that they should get less of an education than they would in college,” said Barbara Gellman-Danley Ph.D. “We feel they deserve the same level because it’s for college credit.”

But lawmakers worry such rigorous standards will jeopardize a program that’s working.

“Many of our teachers have master’s in many different subjects, and they may not be in the exact classes they’re teaching, and so we literally would have hundreds of students who would have otherwise been able to take these classes and earn college credit would not be at risk,” said Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka).

Two-years to get accredited

Dr. Gellman-Danley is trying to reassure lawmakers that they will not start cracking down on this rule for another 2 years. Even then, if they find a college not in compliance, they will have another 2 years to work toward a solution. But lawmakers worry that some school districts may already be pulling back on classes out of fear of a crackdown.