The number of high school students attending state colleges has nearly doubled in the past 11 years.
Led by Tulsa Community College, state colleges and universities are increasingly giving high school students a free head start on their higher educations through concurrent enrollment.
More than 12,000 high school juniors and seniors across the state enrolled in more than 100,000 credit hours at 27 colleges and universities during the 2016-17 school year, according to the state Regents for Higher Education. By far, the largest institution in that effort was TCC, which hosted 2,473 high school students, who pursued 18,674 credit hours.
The Oklahoman reported last week that nearly 92 percent of the high school students in the concurrent enrollment program pass, and 60 percent continue their college educations after high school, a significantly higher than average number for Oklahoma high school graduates.
Concurrent enrollment is good for public schools, good for the students and good for the state. It would be good for the colleges and universities too, but the Legislature hasn’t been willing to pay the program’s total costs.
From 2010, the Oklahoma Legislature only partially funded concurrent enrollment. Reduced state appropriations and steadily growing number of students enrolling meant state colleges faced a growing funding hole for the program. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, campuses were reimbursed only 26 percent of total cost.
The Legislature improved on the situation a bit in the current fiscal year, increasing appropriations by $7.5 million, but that’s still well short of the money needed.
Colleges and universities should not end up in the hole for helping high school students get a head start. Concurrent enrollment is a high-earning investment in the state’s future and the Legislature should fund fully its costs for high school juniors and seniors.