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College in the Schools teacher training program could get funding extension

High school students interested in taking college-level courses have a variety options, one of which is the popular concurrent enrollment program, also known as College in the Schools.

With a goal of expanding students’ access to the program, HF649, sponsored by Rep. Julie Sandstede (DFL-Hibbing), would appropriate $2 million during the 2022-23 biennium to help educators attain the needed credentials to teach concurrent enrollment classes.

“This legislation will ensure Minnesota students can take the path that’s best for them in high school, and ensure teachers are qualified to deliver lessons at the level required of them,” Sandstede said.

The bill was held over by the House Education Finance Committee Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion or further consideration. The companion, SF1108, awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee. Sen. Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids) is the sponsor.

Concurrent enrollment is a postsecondary education option utilized by more than 30,000 high school students statewide. Students are able to take college courses at their high schools during the regular school day. The courses are often taught by qualified high school teachers under the supervision and direction of a higher education partner institution. Upon successful completion of the course, students earn both high school and college credit.

In 2015, the Higher Learning Commissioner, the region’s postsecondary accreditation group, specified individuals who teach these courses must have at least 18 master’s degree credits in their area of instruction. While many already have a master’s degree, it may not be in the area they teach, Sandstede said. This change meant that many of these educators could no longer teach concurrent enrollment courses, which reduced opportunities for students.  

To help rectify this, in 2016 the Legislature appropriated $3 million in one-time funding to 18 Online that enables teachers to attain their necessary credits. The original investment has been expended, and was a success according to Jeremy Kovash, executive director of Lakes Country Service Cooperative, which is the fiscal agent for the 18 Online partnership.

“In 2015, the state of Minnesota estimated that our concurrent enrollment instructors across all school districts in the state were short approximately 15,000 graduate credits,” he said. “This program to date … has helped our concurrent enrollment teachers attain nearly 10,000 of those needed credits.”

Kovash said continued investment will secure the ability for high school teachers and their higher education partners to maintain a “growing and robust portfolio” of concurrent enrollment course offerings for students.

 


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