A state initiative to encourage more high school students enrolled in dual credit courses means more educators are needed to teach those classes.
This week, the Bullock administration and higher education officials announced a pilot program spearheaded by Montana State University Billings will allow Billings students enroll in dual credit courses for free for the coming academic year. The pilot project is called High School Connections.
Dual enrollment allows a student to earn credits toward both high school graduation and at the college level. The college credits they earn will transfer within the Montana University System.
To meet the expected demand, MSUB is planning to help high school teachers get the credentials they need basically for free for the first year.
MSUB Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Bob Hoar says in exchange, teachers agree to teach a dual credit course.
In order to qualify, the educator must have a Master’s degree.
“So if they have a Master’s in the discipline they are teaching they are good to go,” he says. “But if their Master’s is in Education and they’re teaching a history class then they need 9 credits in history at the graduate level.”
He says the cost to obtain those 9 credits could be a barrier for teachers who are otherwise qualified to teach a dual enrollment class.
“It’s easy to put in place disincentives and we don’t want to do that,” Hoar says. “We’re really trying to make everything incentivized in such a way that the state can afford it, we can afford it and it’s not a burden on the teachers who are playing this important role.”
The idea is not new. The Montana University System recently handed out college tuition coupons to obtain the graduate coursework needed to teach dual enrollment classes.
Hoar says the details of the initiative are still being worked out.
Money to offer these programs free to high school students, their teachers, and to develop the graduate courses by MSUB faculty comes from the Performance Based Funding the campus recently received.
Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian says the one-year pilot program will be evaluated to see if it should be extended or expanded to other campuses and communities.