Ohio’s dual credit landscape: A primer

Getty Images/XiXinXing

With college tuition at an all-time high, Ohio families are increasingly interested in finding ways to save on costs. Dual credit is a promising solution because if offers students the chance to earn high school and college credits simultaneously. Ohio has a plethora of dual-credit options, but some are better known to families than others. Here is a quick overview of the offerings.

Awarded credit

This is likely the best-known dual-credit pathway. Students can earn college credit through programs like Advanced Placement (AP), a set of subject-specific courses and tests designed to give secondary students a taste of college-level material. State law guarantees that students can receive college credit from state institutions for any of the thirty-eight available AP tests as long as they earn a score of three or higher out of five. Although this credit will show up on students’ college transcripts, course grades aren’t included. Even students who don’t take official AP courses are allowed to take the tests and earn credit if they earn a high enough score, an option that is sometimes necessary when schools won’t or can’t offer the courses.

Transcripted credit

Students enrolled in College Credit Plus (CCP), a rapidly growing option in Ohio, earn transcripted credit because the class grade and course credit they receive appears on their high school and college transcripts. Unlike AP, which offers dual credit to students based on high school courses taught by secondary teachers, CCP awards dual credit via dual enrollment. That is, a student who takes part in CCP is a high school student and a college student simultaneously, and they are taking an actual college class. Because the stakes are so high, state law restricts enrollment to those who have been deemed college-ready. There are also additional rules regarding which courses students can take and consequences for poor performance. Schools are required to give presentations to students and families regarding access to CCP, and some larger schools have staff assigned to monitor and support their CCP students.

Articulated credit

This is a lesser-known dual-credit option with some exciting possibilities and nagging weak spots. Articulation agreements are arrangements between secondary schools and colleges or universities that link high school–level courses to similar college courses. These agreements can be narrow—focused on a partnership between a single secondary school and a university—or extend statewide. To obtain credit, the process is relatively simple: Students request college credit for secondary classes they passed using a verification form. The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), which administers articulated credit programs, has an online search tool that can help students determine which of their high school credits transfer. Like awarded credit, articulated credit shows up on a student’s college transcript and does not include a course grade.

The most intriguing aspect of articulated credit is the possibilities it creates for career and technical education (CTE) students. The majority of dual-credit options focus almost exclusively on traditional academic courses. For many students, this traditional route fits their postsecondary and career plans just fine. But for the thousands of high schoolers who are enrolled in CTE programs, traditional dual-credit options aren’t always as useful.  

That’s where Career-Technical Credit Transfer, a type of articulated credit, comes in. State law requires ODHE and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to create a policy that allows students to transfer technical courses to state institutions of higher education. The departments have opted to fulfill this mandate in two ways: through bilateral articulation agreements and Career Technical Assurance Guides (CTAGs).

Bilateral articulation agreements are arrangements between a secondary CTE program and a higher education institution. In essence, they are written assurances that courses completed in a secondary CTE program will count for credit at a particular college or university that offers a program in the same field. (Colleges outside the agreement can also award credit, but they aren’t required to do so.) This option is typically utilized by career tech centers, and can include local businesses as partners as part of the agreement.

CTAGs, on the other hand, are statewide articulation agreements. This means that, by law, all public colleges and universities are required to award postsecondary credit for particular CTE courses. Not every CTE course is included in a CTAG, but there are a wide variety of options (like virtual design and imaging and electrical engineering technology) that transfer to a wide range of institutions. The state requires students to meet standards—such as a specific class grade and/or a certain score on an EOC exam—to receive credit via a CTAG, which students must seek within three years for it to apply.

As exciting as all of this is, Ohio’s articulated credit options seem to require a higher degree of student motivation and ownership than the other dual-credit pathways. They also require more forward planning to line up high school courses with future higher education plans. The amount of high school–level support available to students isn’t particularly clear, and data around the numbers of students taking advantage of articulated credit, the costs of programs, and student success rates are difficult to find.

***

The best part of Ohio’s myriad dual-credit options is that nothing prevents students from trying all of them. An enterprising student could enroll in CCP while also taking AP and CTE courses and net themselves a serious amount of college credit before ever walking across the high school stage. Of course, it’s far more likely that students will only try one pathway. But that’s good news too: Each offers a host of possibilities, and ODHE offers a video module designed to inform students of all of them.

There are certainly ways to improve Ohio’s dual credit offerings, particularly when it comes to making students and parents aware of their options and supporting their efforts institutionally. But overall, Ohio’s robust sector—and it’s commitment to ensuring that CTE students aren’t excluded because of the technical nature of their courses—deserves applause. 

 
 
Jessica Poiner
Jessica Poiner is an education policy analyst in the Fordham Institute’s Columbus office. She was a 2011 Teach For America corps member who worked and taught in Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District.