Michael Watkins / Courier - Michael Astourian age 16 from Marshall Fundamental School in Pasadena goes over his notes in the dual enrollment class AP Music theory.
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Dual enrollment is a successful PCC program that assists high school students in realizing their academic potential and preparing for a successful college career.

High school students receive college credits for courses taken in high school. There is no charge for tuition or books, saving students “$113,528 in registration fees, not to mention [savings on] books, which the school districts purchased,” Cynthia Olivo, vice president of student services, said in an email.

The program has given multiple students the confidence needed to pursue a college career, according to Olivo, who, until recently, held the position as director of the two-year-old program.

Olivo recalled one particular sophomore high school student who greatly benefitted from the program. The student “described her experience as transformative,” said Olivo. “She is an African-American young woman who was not sure she could go to college out-of-state but [attending college classes] gave her the confidence to dream big.” This student now plans to attend an out-of-state university.

PCC has implemented this program in all four high schools in the Pasadena Unified School District, and at South El Monte High School. The program is also being offered to Temple City Unified School District.

“Since we started in 2014, 2,468 units have been earned with a 90 percent success rate by 668 high school students,” Olivo said. “We anticipate 400 more participants from Temple City for a total of 1,000 students participating in dual enrollment.”

Students receive course credit from both PCC and their high school— courses that are taught by their own high school teachers who have been certified by PCC to teach college-level courses.

“We are building on social capital,” Olivo said. “The trust that has been built up with existing teachers can serve as a bridge for students who are the first in their families to go to college.”

One of the many advantages of this program is that classes are taught on high school campuses, not at PCC, eliminating barriers created by lack of transportation and scheduling conflicts.

Another advantage is that the classes are taught during the day, and not after hours, making it possible for students to continue their extracurricular activities.

Classes are restricted to high school students only, a feature that Olivo says parents favor. Courses offered include math, health education, Spanish, engineering, sports medicine, music and design technology.

This comprehensive program is possible because of formal partnerships between colleges and school districts allowed by California’s College and Career Access Pathways Act (AB 288). This was proposed by local Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) a strong advocate of dual enrollment for underachieving students.

“Concurrent enrollment can motivate students who aren’t on the college track,” said Holden in a press release when the landmark legislation was finally passed by the legislature in 2015 after years of legislative effort. It can “provide opportunities for students who want to get started in their careers earlier by working towards a degree or certificate in career technical education,” he said.

The positive effects of dual enrollment for low-achieving students were confirmed in a study of almost 3000 California students who were facing serious barriers to education and advancement.

“They were more likely [than comparison students] to graduate from high school, enroll in four-year colleges, and persist in college,” the 2012 study summary reported.

The students also accumulated more college credits and were less likely to take remedial classes.

Of those who participated in the study, 60 percent were students of color, 40 percent came from non-English speaking homes, and one-third had parents with no prior college experience.

Ofelia Arellano is currently overseeing the PCC dual-enrollment program as Dean of Student Services.

“My goal is to work with school districts to offer dual-enrollment opportunities for high school students, and to inform students and parents of the benefits of enrolling in college courses while in high school,” she said in an email. This allows students to explore careers and to understand the benefits of postsecondary education. “It provides students with a smoother transition from high school to college,” she said, “and enhances a student’s confidence in his or her academic ability.”

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