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​Dual Credit Agreements between School Entities and Institutions of Higher Education

24 P.S. § 15-1525

Date of Issue: December 22, 2022

Purpose

This document provides guidance and additional context for school entities implementing agreements with institutions of higher education (IHE) under section 1525 and offering dual credit programs to secondary students.

Introduction

There is a strong body of research supporting the connection between enrollment in rigorous secondary coursework and postsecondary enrollment. Dual credit courses are an example of rigorous secondary coursework. See Rigorous Courses of Study.

Effective with the graduating class of 2023, Pennsylvania students have five pathways to demonstrate postsecondary preparedness; two of the pathways include dual credit coursework. See Statewide High School Graduation Requirement. As such, all school entities should have clear policies explaining how students participate in dual credit courses.

Dual credit programs should serve a wide range of students, particularly those from groups who attend college at disproportionately low rates. Schools should consider how policies may serve as barriers to participation, particularly for students experiencing educational instability. For instance, students in foster care may be academically prepared for a dual credit course but unable to enroll if the school policy requires two parental signatures; or a school that requires a minimum SAT score to participate in duel credit coursework may inadvertently exclude students who cannot afford to take the exam or who did not take the exam because they were unsure of their postsecondary plans.

To increase access to dual credit coursework, Pennsylvania law requires school entities to enter into agreements with IHEs approved to operate in Pennsylvania to allow students to earn college-level credit prior to graduating high school. These agreements are referred to as dual credit agreements because credit is earned at both the secondary school and the IHE.

Effective with the 2022-2023 school year, a school entity that enrolls secondary students must enter into at least one dual credit agreement with an IHE approved to operate in Pennsylvania to allow students to attend the IHE while enrolled in the school entity. A school entity may have agreements with more than one IHE; IHEs may have agreements with more than one school entity.

A school entity must weight credits earned through the agreement in a manner similar to Advanced Placement (AP) Program, International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program or Cambridge advanced courses in the school entity's grading system, including both academic and technical courses. Course weighting is determined locally by school entities.

School entities are required to submit to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) information pertaining to dual credit agreements and student participation no later than July 31, 2023, and each school year thereafter.

Dual Credit Partners

School Entities

A school entity is a school district, area career and technical school (CTC), charter school, cyber charter school or regional charter school that enrolls secondary students.

Eligible IHEs

School entities may only enter into agreements with IHEs approved to operate in Pennsylvania. IHEs currently approved to operate in Pennsylvania are found in Pennsylvania Department of Education Educational Names & Addresses (EdNA) database.

Not all college-level credits transfer to all IHEs or apply to all majors. Before entering into a dual credit agreement, school entities should find out whether the IHE is regionally accredited and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and how the coursework offered through the dual credit agreement may be accepted by local colleges and other IHEs where students in the secondary school tend to enroll after high school. When students repeat courses they already successfully completed, it increases the cost of their postsecondary education and takes longer to earn a degree. The Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PATRAC) shows how coursework is accepted at Pennsylvania community colleges, universities in the State System of Higher Education and other colleges that participate in the statewide college credit transfer system.

Dual Credit Agreements – Structure and Content

A dual credit agreement is a written contract between the school entity and the IHE. State law requires the agreement to be structured so that:

  • Secondary school students receive postsecondary credit at or through an IHE approved to operate in Pennsylvania;
  • Credits earned by a secondary school student are the same credits offered to a postsecondary school student enrolled at the IHE and are recorded on the secondary school transcript and the student's IHE transcript;
  • Courses may be offered in person, online or a combination of in person and online;
  • When possible, dual credit courses are aligned to the student's graduation requirements, the requirements of a career and technical education (CTE) program offered by the student's secondary school, or a career pathway offered by the student's school.

School entities and IHEs also would benefit from including the following information in the agreement to clearly outline each party's roles and responsibilities:

  • Agreement effective date;
  • Names, positions, and contact information for individuals at the secondary entity and IHE who will serve as primary contacts for students and staff and maintain the agreement;
  • Target grade levels and student participation criteria;
  • Student registration process and deadlines;
  • The cost of tuition, fees, and related course materials;
  • Courses to be offered;
  • Where and how dual credit courses will be offered, including a timeline of important deadlines;
  • Who will teach the dual credit courses;
  • Course assessment and instructor/teacher assessment responsibilities;
  • How the school entity and IHE will address the needs of special education students and issues relating to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and
  • How student data will be shared between the entities.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows student data to be shared between the two enrolling institutions without the need for signed releases from students or parents.

The dual credit agreement should be signed by each entity's highest level of leadership.

School entities must submit their dual credit agreements to PDE electronically in their Comprehensive Plan despite if submitted in the CATS Plan through the Future Ready Comprehensive Planning Portal (FRCPP); charter schools must submit agreements in their Comprehensive Plan and their Charter School Annual Report in FRCPP. All agreements will be included in the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA TRAC), the statewide college credit transfer website. School entities must provide PDE with copies of all agreements within 30 days of entering into agreements and whenever changes are made.

Charter school authorizers may request dual credit agreements and data as part of the charter school authorization process or to annually assess whether a charter school is meeting the goals of its charter.1

Dual Credit Instructors

Dual credit courses may be taught by IHE faculty or by secondary faculty approved by the IHE to teach dual credit courses on behalf of the IHE.

When possible, the courses offered by an IHE through an agreement shall supplement, not supplant courses, offered by the school entity to its secondary school students. Section 1525 does not supersede or preempt a provision of a collective bargaining agreement between a school entity and an employe organization, or a right of an employe organization under the provisions of the act of July 23, 1970 (P.L.563, No.195), known as the "Public Employe Relations Act." An employe organization is defined as a public school employe organization of any kind, or any agency or employe representation committee or plan in which membership is limited to public school employes, and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with public school employers concerning grievances, public school employe-public school employer disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment or conditions of work, but shall not include any organization which practices discrimination in membership because of race, color, creed, national origin or political affiliation.

Background Clearances

The Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law requires an IHE's employees to obtain Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Background Check (SP-164), Federal (FBI) Fingerprint Criminal Background Check (Criminal History Report), and Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance (CY-113) if they have direct contact with secondary students under the age of 18.2 This includes college instructors teaching in a high school as well as college instructors teaching high school students on the college campus. The IHE is responsible for ensuring that IHE faculty teaching coursework under an agreement have the required clearances.

Tuition/Fees

The cost of tuition, fees and related course materials should be clearly stated in the dual credit agreement. Tuition and fees vary by IHE. School entities should be aware of pricing differences and take steps to minimize program costs to students and families so as to promote equal access to dual credit courses and not to prohibit student participation. Funding sources may include, but are not limited to, ESSA Title I-A funding, state Basic Education Funding subsidy, Secondary CTE Subsidy, tuition paid by a school district to a charter school that is educating a district student, Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) funding, federal and state grants, and private sources.

A school entity may, but is not required to, pay for tuition, fees, supplies or other costs related to a secondary school student enrolling in college coursework as part of a dual credit agreement. Students enrolled in dual credit courses may be counted in the school entity's average daily membership (ADM) as long as the school entity pays the student's tuition, fees, and textbooks. If the student/family pays any part of the dual credit cost, membership in the school entity must be calculated by counting the time the student spends in the public school on a pro rata basis. See 22 Pa. Code § 11.5.

A student attending an IHE full-time prior to graduating high school must be dropped from the school's membership at the time they stop attending the school entity. See 22 Pa. Code § 11.4.

If a charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school does not pay the cost of tuition, fees, supplies and related materials of a secondary school student enrolled in a dual credit course, the student's school district of residence may reduce the tuition paid to the charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school for the student under section 1725-A by the costs incurred by the student as verified and approved by the charter school, regional charter school or cyber charter school. School districts may request dual credit enrollment and cost data from charter schools, regional charter schools and cyber charter schools to verify dual credit costs incurred by students. Each charter school, regional charter school and cyber charter school must include dual credit data in its annual report submitted to their authorizers and PDE by August 1 of each year, as required by section 1728(b) of the Charter School Law.

Reporting Requirements

School entities report dual credit data to PDE for the Rigorous Courses of Study Indicator, one of several College and Career Ready Measures publicly published on the Future Ready PA Index dashboard. The Rigorous Courses of Study Indicator represents the percentage of 12th graders who participated in at least one Rigorous Course of Study, defined as AP, IB and dual credit, during grades 7-12, or who were concentrators in a CTE program of study.

No later than July 31, 2023, and each school year thereafter, school entities must provide to PDE, at minimum, the number and form of dual credit agreements the school entity has entered into and the number of secondary school students participating in the agreements, including total credits earned. All school entities will submit dual credit data via the Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS).

References

24 P.S. § 15-1525
24 P.S. § 17-1725-A
24 P.S. § 20-2003-C
24 P.S. § 20-2005-C
23 Pa. C.S. § 6344 (a.1) (2)
22 Pa. Code § 11.4
22 Pa. Code § 11.5
22 Pa. Code § 31.2
22 Pa. Code § 36.1-8 

Bureau/Office Contact

Bureau of School Support
333 Market Street
Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333
Email: RA-EDDOP@pa.gov


1 24 PS § 17-1728-A(a)
2 23 Pa. C.S. § 6344 (a.1) (2)