Local high schoolers can use federal money for Glenville State courses

By Ryan Quinn, Staff Writer
Glenville State College in Gilmer County.
High schoolers taking “dual enrollment” courses — which let students get both college and high school credit — through Glenville State College will now be able to use financial-need-based grants to pay for these classes. Also, a Glenville official says the college will offer those courses to every Kanawha County public high school.

The U.S. Department of Education announced in a news release Monday that Glenville is one of 44 postsecondary institutions nationwide that’s been invited into the new “experiment” — the first time high schoolers will be allowed to use federal Pell Grants for the dual enrollment courses. The grants will be able to fund the full cost of the Glenville courses.

Students get federal Pell Grants based on financial need. Unlike loans, the grants don’t have to be repaid. According to the federal Education Department’s website, the maximum award amount for this school year was $5,775.

Larry Porter, Glenville’s grants manager, said the college offers dual enrollment courses in 10 counties: Braxton, Calhoun, Gilmer, Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Webster and Wyoming.

He said the dozen high schools served across those counties will increase to 20 next school year. No Kanawha schools currently offer the courses, although Herbert Hoover High School did in the past.

Porter said the dual enrollment classes are taught according to Glenville’s curriculum by instructors who meet the college’s requirements, including having a master’s degree or higher in the subject.

While Porter would like students to attend Glenville, he said those who earn the dual enrollment college credits by getting a C or higher can transfer them to any college in the state and the vast majority of institutions nationwide.

“I haven’t heard of a case where our credits don’t transfer someplace,” Porter said. He said dual enrollment courses will also transfer as college credits in the correct subjects, rather than being converted to some type of elective.

“As part of this experiment, an estimated 10,000 high school students will have the opportunity to access approximately $20 million in Federal Pell Grants to take dual enrollment courses provided by colleges and high schools throughout the nation,” the federal department announced in its news release, which noted that “less than 10 percent of children born in the bottom quartile of household incomes attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to over 50 percent in the top quartile.”

The department said the experiment had already “spurred the creation of at least 10 new partnerships between colleges and high schools.”

“With this pilot program we are one step closer to making college more affordable and accessible to all students,” U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said in a conference call with reporters.

He said the department wants to see how allowing Pell Grants for dual enrollment will affect long-term academic outcomes.

Porter said the college’s dual enrollment courses currently cost $252 each, and as part of the federal department’s pilot program, Glenville has agreed that the Pell Grant will always cover the full cost of the courses for the students who need financial help. He said the department will hopefully see success with the pilot program and make Pell Grants available to in-need high schoolers nationwide.

He said the grant money high schoolers use for dual enrollment will count toward their maximum allowance to pursue further higher education, and that students will get tutoring and advising to ensure they’re taking dual enrollment classes that will help them get the degrees they want.

“So it’s going to be focused heavily on classes that are requirements, core requirements, for college, any degree that you may be looking at,” Porter said. “… So, English, history, humanities, those kind of things, so they’re not burning up their Pell Grant reserve without their ability to get a college degree out of it.”

He said he just learned Glenville would be invited to the program last week, so the college will be working with high schools to distribute information to interested students and families and help them fill out the necessary Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, who said the department is also interested in whether Pell Grants will increase participation in dual enrollment programs, told reporters 80 percent of the chosen institutions are community colleges and, among other commonalities, they all provide personalized support to students.

The department said that, in the 2010-11 school year, more than 1.4 million high schoolers took for-credit courses offered by colleges through dual enrollment and said research suggests dual enrollment can lead to better academic outcomes, particularly for first-generation college students and students with low family incomes. But the department said most students pay out of pocket to attend dual enrollment programs at nearly half of all institutions that have them.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1254, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.