A bill that would that would waive college tuition for high school students in dual credit programs was approved by the Senate Committee on Education on Friday afternoon.

Senate Bill 374 would make the programs available to all high school students, and would also make them tuition-free. Programs at the University of Hawaii’s community colleges like Running Start and Jump Start give students the opportunity to get a head start on college while still in high school, or help them graduate from high school early.

The bill was amended to include private and homeschooled students, and would ensure the programs are the same across all campuses.

Escaping Hawaii’s Community College Trap

Eligible high school students could attend community college tuition-free if the bill becomes law.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Right now, Hawaii is one of only nine states that require the student or the student’s parents to pay for college tuition in dual credit programs.

“I truly believe in dual enrollment opportunities, but the current infrastructure mainly benefits those who can afford it, thus creating a divide based on socio-economic status,” Sheldon Tawata, high school outreach coordinator at Kapiolani Community College, said in written testimony.

Currently only high school juniors and seniors can participate, but the bill would allow ninth- and 10th-graders to also take dual credit courses. If students start taking college classes as freshmen, they could earn a high school diploma and associate’s degree at the same time.

“Dual credit programs will allow our students to get an early start on college, free of charge … and provide our students with the best chance of success in a competitive, global job market,” Kohala High School Principal Janette Snelling said in written testimony.

SB 374 would also rename the Running Start program the Dual Credit program.

Students currently must take a standardized test to enter into the program. The bill would instead require an assessment that considers GPA, teacher recommendations and various assessment tests to show that eligible students are ready for college classes.

The bill also appropriates $1,840,000 of the state’s general revenues for the 2015-2016 school year to cover the Department of Education’s additional costs. This funding would continue for the 2016-2017 school year.

Additionally, another $800,000 would be set aside for additional staff and administrative costs at the University of Hawaii. The funding would continue for the next two school years.


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