Some Florida private schools face an unexpected dilemma this school year: Find extra dollars to pay for state college courses their high school students want to take – or deny them the option.
The problem stems from a new law requiring public school districts and individual private schools to cover tuition for students enrolled in the state’s popular dual enrollment program.
Though it’s unclear how many private school schools and students are affected, the change has left some schools curbing participation and others anxious about what they’ll do if local colleges, prompted by the new law, end up hiking charges.
The change “caught everybody off guard,’’ said Howard Burke of the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and immediate past president of Florida Association of Academic Nonpublic Schools (FAANS). “This is a hardship for parents already paying taxes for public schools and paying for private school.’’
His association represents about 140 schools with an average of $4,000 to $5,200 in tuition. Burke said some of those schools are telling parents they now will owe an additional fee for dual enrollment to help schools with the unexpected costs.
“I think it’s obscene,’’ Burke said. “This should not be happening.’’
Dual enrollment lets students knock out college-level credits for free while they’re still in high school so they can earn college degrees faster and save their families – and the state – thousands of dollars.
Currently, there are about 65,000 high school students participating, up 20 percent since 2010-11. Before the change, districts and colleges received additional state funding for the program costs (excluding books and other materials). Private schools, meanwhile, had separate agreements with colleges that allowed their students the same access.
In recent years, however, state colleges lobbied for more money because they said they were losing an estimated $43 million to $58 million a year in tuition. Lawmakers approved a bill last spring that allows the colleges to charge districts a standard fee of $71.98 per credit. The law went into effect in July. Continue Reading →