Governor’s Budget Merges Course Options, Youth Options; Restores Part-Time Open Enrollment

2017-state-budgetEffective with the 2017-18 school year, the governor proposes to merge the Course Options and Youth Options programs into a new Early College Credit program governing traditional dual enrollment for college credit. The proposal aims to simplify college credit attainment for high school pupils and school districts and it would statutorily limit per-credit charges and spell out who is responsible for paying those credit costs. The proposal also explicitly allows pupils to take dual enrollment courses during the summer.

In a related change, the governor also proposes to restore the part-time open enrollment program, which was in existence from the 1998-99 school year until the 2012-13 school year, but was repealed and replaced by the Course Options program as part of the 2013-15 state budget. Under part-time open enrollment, a pupil enrolled in grades 9-12 in a public school may attend public school in a nonresident school district to take a course offered by the nonresident school district; however, a pupil may attend no more than two courses at any time in nonresident school districts.

Under the proposed Early College Credit program, any public high school pupil may enroll in an institution of higher education–defined to include a UW System institution, a technical college within the WTCS, a tribal college, or a private, nonprofit institution of higher education located in this state–for the purpose of taking one or more nonsectarian courses, including during a summer semester or session.

Pupils must submit an application to the institution of higher education during the previous semester and must indicate on the application whether they will be taking the course or courses for high school credit or postsecondary credit or both, if applicable. An institution of higher education must admit a pupil to attend a course if the pupil meets the requirements and prerequisites of the course and there is space available in the course.

The governor’s proposal spells  out both a school board’s responsibility and a pupil’s responsibility for paying the costs of course taken under the Early College Credit program.  It also creates an appropriation in the Department of Workforce Development from which school districts could be reimbursed for their share of the costs of tuition for pupils in the Early College Credit program.  If the amount appropriated  ($1.15 million in 2017-18 and $1.75 million in 2018-19) is insufficient to reimburse all school districts’ eligible for the full amount of reimbursable tuition costs, then payments to school districts will be prorated.

The proposal carries forward a couple of key safeguards from the Youth Options program that limit a school district’s potential costs under the new merged program.  Specifically, these allow a school board to:

  • Establish a written policy limiting the total number of credits for which the school board will pay to the equivalent of 18 postsecondary semester credits per pupil; and
  • Request that the pupil, if he or she is an adult, or the parent or guardian of a pupil, who receives a failing grade in a course, or fails to complete a course for which the school board has made payment, reimburse the school board the amount paid on the pupil’s behalf. If no reimbursement is received, the school board can block further access by the pupil to the Early College Credit program.

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