Opinion: Concurrent enrollment a win-win for Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Opinion: Concurrent enrollment a win-win for Steamboat Springs

JC Norling
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Last May at the Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs commencement ceremony, Steamboat Springs High School students Jackson Lewer, Hannah Murphy, Izabella Waldschmidt and Christopher Loren Stone walked across the stage to receive their well-earned associate degrees. They did so a month before graduating from high school, and they accomplished it tuition-free.

That’s 60 credits of free tuition thanks to the concurrent enrollment program and a partnership between the CMC Steamboat Springs campus and Steamboat Springs High School.

The Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act, or CEPA, also referred to as concurrent enrollment or dual-enrollment, was passed by the Colorado State Legislature in 2009. It allows high school students to earn credit toward a high school diploma while also building a college transcript. Courses can be traditional academic programs or career and tech education programs.

For our local Steamboat students, the benefits are endless given they can build a college transcript toward a degree at CMC or numerous statewide universities, as many CEPA courses are marked guaranteed transfer. Plus, students get a real feel for college by learning in an environment integrated with college-degree-seeking students.

Each year, the college continues to see more and more students interested in the program. During the 2017-18 school year, 31 students took about 82 credits. In 2018-19, numbers grew to 50 students and 274 credits. Then, 195 students took 1,557 credits in 2019-20, and 233 students took 1,753 credits in 2020-21.

This year, the anticipated enrollment includes 280-plus students earning more than 1,900 credits. What an accomplishment for the college and the youth in our community.

So how does the concurrent enrollment program work? The state provides funding to local high schools, which, in turn, work with local higher education partners, like Colorado Mountain College, to determine what courses will be offered to students.

CMC Steamboat can have enrolled and registered high school students in classes at the campus, and the college can have credential qualifying teachers at the high school to teach college-credit courses at the high school. The credentialing of high school teachers is based on accreditation criteria set by the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body for the college.

And the results speak for themselves as 77% of Colorado CEPA students go on to college compared with 52% of students who did not participate, according to research by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab. Even better, 82% of CEPA students continued in their postsecondary education — known as persistence — compared to 77% of non-CEPA students.

Some parents also ask if CMC’s concurrent enrollment program at the high school conflicts with the College Board’s Advanced Placement program. Fortunately, many concurrent enrollment classes are also classified as AP classes, which means students can get the best of both worlds.

Overall, concurrent enrollment is a win-win for Steamboat Springs.

For more information about how to register for CEPA through Steamboat Springs High School with CMC, students should work with their high school guidance counselor or call CMC at 970-870-4444. More information can also be found at ColoradoMTN.edu/concurrent-enrollment-high-school.

JC Norling is CMC vice president and campus dean at the Steamboat Springs campus. He can be reached at jnorling@coloradomtn.edu.

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