November 24, 2009 at 1:00 am

50 ideas to fix Michigan

Full high school access to two-year colleges

The Detroit News is highlighting ideas from various groups to promote discussion on reform, restructuring government and the economy.

Full high school access to two-year colleges

Idea 45: Let high school students choose to take some or all required courses for a high school diploma from community colleges.

Why: Michigan pays twice when high schools and community colleges overlap services and offer the same courses. In addition, studies estimate that community colleges spend one-third of their time providing remedial education, essentially doing the job that high schools are supposed to do. Allowing students to skip some high school extracurricular courses and move on to college earlier would lessen this redundancy and give many students a jump start on job training or a four-year degree.

Benefits: Community colleges can provide a full load of courses for about $2,000 less per year per pupil than high schools. The state could save $140 million if 20 percent of Michigan's 10th, 11th and 12th graders took all of their classes at a community college. Students could gain access to more good teachers through the hundreds of community college courses offered online. This would especially benefit traditionally disadvantaged students in failing schools and would help to narrow achievement gaps. High schoolers earning transferrable community college credits would need fewer credits and less time in expensive university classes, in turn helping control overall university costs and reduce student debt.

How: Michigan's dual enrollment program allows students to take community college courses only if their high school doesn't offer the same course. This limitation should be removed legislatively, and the state should directly give community colleges a prorated amount of the foundation allowance for every enrolled high school student.

Obstacles: Conventional public school districts and politically powerful school employee unions will view this as a threat to their monopoly and fight bitterly to stop it.

Source: Mackinac Center for Public Policy