A group tasked with studying the issue of letting Louisiana high school juniors and seniors take two dual enrollment courses, at no cost, will meet for the first time Aug. 1.
The task force was created through legislation backed by state Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish, R-Jennings. Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Senate Bill 243 on June 6, mere hours after the session ended.
The measure was far short of the governor's aspirations. During his legislative address at the start of the session, he said he wanted to give all high school juniors and seniors free access to two colleges courses by next year. However, the measure designed to do that, Senate Bill 194, failed to gain any traction during the session.
The 12-member task force will meet Aug. 1 to elect a chairman and any other officers. The group will go over existing laws, policies and dual enrollments in Louisiana and other states. It will also try to identify funding needs and sources, along with course content requirements and qualifications for students and teachers.
Morrish, who is term-limited, spoke on Tuesday about the task force and the importance of dual enrollment courses, which offer high school students the chance to earn college credit.
"(It's) such a big deal now, and the cost of college is so expensive," he said. "Some kids take enough dual enrollment courses, they start as sophomores. It's kind of an access/affordability issue."
One of the biggest problems, Morrish said, is that different courses have different prices. Some school districts can afford dual enrollment courses, while others can't.
"The primary focus of the task force is to look at the cost and to see what costs are exceptional and how do we go about paying for these students to be in dual enrollment," Morrish said. "Students can know what courses are available and the cost of those courses."
Morrish said there seems to be a "disconnect" between school counselors, parents and students as to who offers what. Some cities with colleges offer courses on campus, while others send a professor to the high schools.
"Each school district did it its own way," Morrish said. "Universities weren't on the same page as to how they went about it."
Morrish said college credit courses should fit into a student's career plans.
Kim Hunter Reed, commissioner of higher education, is dedicated to making dual enrollment work statewide, Morrish said.
"There's a lot of work to do, but I know (Reed) and the Board of Regents are very interested in making this happen, as are the school districts," he said.
The task force has to provide its recommendations to the House and Senate education committees by Oct. 1, 2020.