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College Credit for High School Students

The pandemic may be an ideal time to challenge students to seek out activities with longer-term benefits than video games, streaming media, social media and the YouTube rabbit hole.


With school occurring online in many areas, unsupervised students may struggle to remain engaged. This is as good a time as any to encourage the student to explore Dual Credit opportunities. Dual Credit is a blanket term for courses that provide credit toward both high school and college graduation, but the options, which differ slightly, are worth exploring.


When Hortonville High School student Ben Borchardt enrolled in an advanced manufacturing course, he discovered an interest and aptitude in welding. For Ben, this launched a career path including an early college start through Fox Valley Technical College, where both welding and traditional college courses would count toward his degree. After graduating in May 2019, Ben started a full-time welding job and in spring 2020, he enrolled in FVTC’s Welding/Metal Fab Technician and Production Welding technical Diplomas. He credits the dual credit program for his strong start. “Dual credit classes prepare you for how college works,” and adds “They’re also a great way to figure out what you want to do after high school.”


The most appropriate dual credit option may depend on the student’s long-term goals. For example, Advanced Placement (AP) and Advanced Standing (AS) options are similar, but the AP option is specific to a four-year college or university. The AP credit is activated once the student enrolls in college courses, as long as the University accepts the test score. There is a cost to take the test, which might be prohibitive. The Advance Standing credit is activated upon entry into a technical college at no cost and with an agreement in place instead of an exam.


For students interested in working and exploring careers while in high school, Youth Apprenticeship (YA) might be a great option. YA includes a full college course taught by a high school instructor and a job component. The student fulfills work duties related to the college-level instruction so they can earn money and explore a relevant career.


The most common form of dual credit, Transcripted Credit, appears on a student’s transcript and official school record. In 2019, almost 46,000 Wisconsin high school students took nearly 70,000 courses, earning more than 175,000 credits (according to Wisconsin Technical College data. In this case, the course is taught by a high school teacher who is the primary instructor for a full college course, with oversight from a technical college instructor or mentor. There is no cost to the students for the credits, which are based on a formal articulation agreement. 


Start College Now, also known as 38.12 (14) contracts (allocated by Wisconsin State Statute, Chapter 38.12), allow high school students to apply to the school board to take college credits. The 38.14 contract is the agreement between the school board and the technical college.


When Macey Pingel, a 2019 graduate of Chilton High School decided on a career in business administration, she sought to get a head start through the Start College Now program. Her experience taking classes at Fox Valley Technical College was a good one. “I’ve never felt more welcomed somewhere than I am here. They make personal connections with you and do so much to help you succeed.”


By December of 2019, Macey graduated from FVTC’s Business Management program and transferred to UW-Green Bay as a junior – even before turning 19 years old.


State Statute determines when the Start College Now applications are due. Students may need to apply before the class schedule is released, so they may need to be flexible about what course(s) they take. However, the courses are offered at no charge to the student, as they are not offered at the high school. Earned credits apply toward a technical college or a four-year college degree and may represent either general education credits and/or occupational credits. Start College Now requires both an application for an articulation agreement and a contract for the credits to appear on a technical college transcript.


Students with internal motivation may seek out dual credit opportunities, but many students who could benefit from them may not realize they exist. This is a great opportunity to maximize any additional free time they may have – during the pandemic and beyond – but it may require some proactive discussion with them to create awareness and help them see the tremendous cost- and time-saving benefits. The technical colleges are always available to answer questions or discuss options with students and their advocates, be they counselors, teachers or parents.


Learn more about Dual Credit or connect with your technical college’s career prep coordinators.