Dual credit is key to job creation, economic growth

2022-01-03 14:49:13 By : Mr. Jason Zhou

As the year begins and we look forward to a legislative session in which “once-in-a-generation” federal and state funding has the potential to change the trajectory of New Mexico’s future, one simple $10 million investment is a game-changer for New Mexico’s high school students: adequate funding for dual credit courses.

By simultaneously fulfilling high school graduation and college completion requirements, dual credit courses propel young people faster, farther, and more efficiently into the 21st century workforce needed to fulfill the state’s economic development aspirations.

States across the country are using and expanding access to this powerful tool to grow and prepare their future workforce. Meanwhile, New Mexico continues to be mired in a lack of understanding due to a lack of clear data to show just how powerful these courses can be.

As a result, our colleges and universities statewide are doing the right thing without proper funding, receiving $460,912 in state funding in FY 2021 while waiving $9.08 million in tuition. It’s a continuing situation that is clearly unsustainable.

What we do know is that New Mexico’s dual credit program is an exemplar in the country in its diversity (62% are students of color) and its impact on those from low-income families (55% of courses are taken by economically-disadvantaged students). However, as one of only six states without a longitudinal data system, we haven’t been able to fully grasp the impact these courses have had on our students after graduation and into careers.

Data from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions show signs that New Mexico’s college-educated population is very slightly growing, while those with high school or less are declining (.25% vs. .3%). Dual credit has played an important part in this shift, with more than 20,000 high school students completing dual credit courses in each of the past four years.

Future New Mexico employment projections require we inspire a college-educated workforce, as 327,950 jobs in 2026 will require some level of college completion. In a state that currently demonstrates some of the lowest educational attainment rates in the country (41% in New Mexico without college degrees vs. the national average of 39%), Dual credit is the tool we need to change our trajectory quickly and for years to come.

Adequately funding dual credit is an economic imperative for the state, returning at a minimum of almost $4 to the state and almost $21 to families for every $1 in potential state investment. One of the most comprehensive studies in the country conducted by Texas demonstrated similar results of $5 in state returns for every $1 invested.

It’s time to properly fund high-quality dual credit for BOTH partners, high schools and colleges/universities, who make it possible for 21,757 students to complete 54,265 courses (SY 19-20 data). High-quality dual credit propels students toward college-level certificates and degrees through:

We should fund those courses that generate costs for our colleges — those delivered by college faculty and on college campuses or remotely. And, we should only fund those courses that lead directly to credentials or degrees that equip our students for higher-skilled, higher-wage jobs in our 21st Century economy and are targeted by our state’s 20-year economic development plan.

To be very clear — dual credit students are receiving the same services as tuition-paying students, and yet these high school students have no legal access to any of the same funding streams that support those other students.

This is an investment being made by our neighboring states, and it’s key to stemming the tide of “brain drain” for New Mexico.

This $10 million investment annually will ensure New Mexico has the workforce it needs to compete for years to come.

Tracey Bryan is president/CEO of the Bridge of Southern New Mexico.