georgia-lawmakers-pitch-changes-to-dual-enrollment-program,-including-extending-hope -grant-eligibility

Georgia lawmakers pitch changes to dual enrollment program, including extending HOPE  Grant eligibility

A joint Legislative committee has recommended tweaks to Georgia’s dual enrollment program, which sends eligible high school students into college classes. Nikolay Georgiev/Pixabay

A state legislative panel unanimously approved recommendations for changes to the state’s dual enrollment program Wednesday, intended to simplify the process, better inform parents and students, and invest more state cash into the program.

About 45,000 Georgia high school students took at least one dual enrollment class last year, allowing them to bank some college credit before they turn their tassel on graduation day.

Lawmakers have been traveling the state this summer to discuss potential tweaks to the program. The panel of state House members and Senators unanimously approved a packet of recommendations Wednesday, which could be incorporated into legislation when the full Legislature meets back in January.

The panel plans to recommend removing the sunset clause from this year’s Senate Bill 86, which allows students to use HOPE Grant money to pay for career, technical and agricultural education classes. The program is set to expire in 2026.

“As a student, as a parent, as a counselor, it is difficult to recommend this path if there’s no clarity that this path is going to be available in three years,” said Sen. Matt Brass, co-chair of the joint committee. “So I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory.”

Much of the discussion at Wednesday morning’s 30-minute committee meeting revolved around creating a definition for the term “high-demand careers” so that the state can help persuade kids into entering them.

“We kind of determined that there’s really no clear definition in statute for ‘high demand career,’” said Brass, a Newnan Republican. “It is mentioned in statute on multiple occasions, but again, we never actually define it anywhere.”

Gainesville Republican Rep. Matt Dubnik, the committee’s other co-chair, said the definition should be future-proof and based on data.

“I don’t think it can be stressed enough that there has to be a way centered around data for us to define high demand careers,” he said. “It’s one thing Chairman Brass and I got together and are shooting marbles and trying to figure out which way the wind’s blowing today, but this needs to be based on data that can be quantified, that we can track and we can monitor, and it’s not at the whims of any elected official or board, with no disrespect to any of those people.”

Other recommendations approved by the committee include sharing information on career, technical and agricultural education classes with parents and students and streamlining agreements between school systems and universities and technical colleges.

The Legislature could consider these changes and more when the session resumes early next year, Brass said, or, it might not.

“We’re just saying we’re recommending these changes take place, we’re not necessarily recommending how they take place,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just getting all the players of the three-legged stool together and working out a solution. We’ve got representatives from each on this committee, and I’m confident that we’re all going to be able to sit down and figure something out. Whether it be legislatively or not, through rules and regs, there’s multiple ways to skin a cat, if you will. The idea here is to build a great program and keep it sustainable and whether we need to do that legislatively or not, we’ll figure that out.”


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