NJPSA, joined fellow stakeholders, NJEA, NJSBA, NJASA & GSC, raising concerns on legislation, S-2624 (Sweeney), legislation that would mandate schools institute dual enrollment programs and shoulder a third of costs. While appreciative of the intent of the legislation, we raised logistical and cost concerns with the bill as drafted. Thanks to the dual efforts of the groups working in conjunction, the sponsors are poised to work with us to resolve concerns with the bill.
A Need For Analysis Before Action
As you may recall, in 2014 the State passed legislation which is the basis for this bill. That legislation made dual enrollment for school districts permissive, rather than mandatory, in light of concerns related to staffing, transportation (particularly where a student’s district is far removed from a college/university, and even cost concerns (districts negotiate w/community and 4 yr institutions to get the best rate possible). That same law, P.L.2014, c.74, required the Commissioner of Ed, in consult with the Secretary of Higher Education, to examine the existing dual enrollment programs – including an examination of utilization, location, and income levels of participating students.
The report was also supposed to provide recommendations that districts could use who might be struggling to implement or sustain programs. Unfortunately that examination never happened. It would have helped districts address lingering challenges that might be forestalling them from facilitating a dual enrollment.
As such, the group argued that prior to any action – this analysis AND appropriate supports – be provided before mandating dual enrollment across the State.
Mandating Cost Instead of Negotiating Them
Moreover, S-2624 also requires that the State, student and district equally share costs (unless the student is on free or reduced priced lunch). This may chill district ability to negotiate the very best price for the student and the district.
Determining Readiness for Dual Enrollment
Further, allowing the district, who best knows the student, to decide whether they are college ready based upon the unique needs and skills of the student is critical. This legislation would leave that decision to the Secretary of Higher Education generally, without regard to the abilities that a student may face. This is probably best left to the local district and family to work through.
Given concerns raised by stakeholders, as well as the lack of information that would best inform this process, the sponsors agreed to sit down and potentially pursue the development of a legislative commission to examine issues related to dual enrollment. We believe using this approach will lead to a better bill – and, more importantly, a better outcome, for students and schools. NJPSA will continue to keep you posted as if and when the legislation moves forward.