By CATHERINE BYRNE
Capital News Service
LANSING — Future Spartans lost a chance to get a head start on college when Michigan State University decided not to count credits earned by students who are enrolled in high school and college at the same time.
Some legislators are concerned about MSU’s decision.
“I’m disappointed with MSU,” said Rep. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks. “(Dual-enrollment) is really important and I don’t understand why universities would say it’s not worth the credit.
“It’s really a shame to stymie these students.”
According to the report “Measuring Up 2000,” released by the National Center for Public Policy in Higher Education, 15 of every 100 students who begin at the 15 Michigan public universities earn a degree.
Rep. Charles LaSata, R-St. Joseph, a member of the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, contends colleges should be more concerned with increasing graduation rates than stifling students’ credits.
“We actually discussed funding colleges based on degrees as opposed to the number of students after seeing this study,” LaSata said. “Right now, we’re giving them an incentive to limit the number of credits their students earn.
“A fifth-year senior gets more money for colleges than an advanced student who came in with multiple credits and earns a degree in three and a half years.”
Michigan’s dual-enrollment program allows high school students to earn tuition-free credits by taking college courses while fulfilling high school requirements. Last year, 7,583 students participated in the program.
But not all Michigan colleges accept those credits from incoming students, despite a 1991 law providing they can be used both ways.
MSU began rejecting credits last fall because many students with dual-enrollment credits were unprepared for more advanced classes, Assistant Provost Barbara Steidle said.
Richard Brown, Leslie High School guidance counselor, calls MSU’s new policy a “rip-off.”
“A lot of smaller schools like Leslie don’t have the variety of classes that larger schools have,” Brown said. “A student from Leslie can’t take Greek history or every foreign language. Also, there are many high-schoolers who are just ready for college-level work.”
According to Brown, high schools are recording college course grades on students’ report cards but not counting them for credit as a way around the policy.
Not all students and parents share Brown’s distaste for the new policy.
Marcus Alston, a student at Eastern High School in Lansing, took a French class at Lansing Community College when Eastern’s equivalent didn’t fit his schedule.
“I thought it was a great experience,” Alston said. “The teacher was from Paris and it helped me a lot with my conversational speaking skills.
“The college credit was a plus, but the experience was much more valuable.”
Alston’s mother, Margaret, agrees that the credit wasn’t her concern.
“It’s great experience in a college setting and I think it encourages young people to choose to go to college after high school,” she said.
MSU’s new policy is similar to the University of Michigan’s not to accept anything that was also counted as high school credit.
“Taking college courses is still of value to the student whether they get college credit or not,” said Julie Peterson, associate vice president of media relations at U-M. “We have a highly selective application process, and anything that puts you above and beyond the tens of thousands of applicants is valuable.”
Western Michigan University, on the other hand, looks at dual-enrollment credit as it would any transfer credit, according to Cheryl Roland, director of news and communications.
“If a student has a transcript in good standing with any institution, we’ll accept it at face value,” Roland said.
Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville is very “flexible” and also accepts most transfer credits, said Admissions Officer Janine Breneman. According to Char Coy of enrollment services, Andrews University in Berrien Springs also accepts any credits on a transcript.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By CATHERINE BYRNE