The economic future of our state is tied to ‘high wage, high demand’ jobs across multiple business sectors. The Louisiana Workforce Commission’s 2022 Occupational Forecast terms these “3, 4 and 5” star jobs and urges students to pursue a course of study to allow them to enter these positions. At the same time, the Public Affairs Research Council (PARC) reports that only 19% of these jobs require a high school diploma, while over 50% will need a credential between high school and a two-year associate’s degree. The remaining 29% of jobs require a four-year or graduate degree. So, unlike in previous years, possession of a high school diploma means students do not qualify for more than 80% of these high demand jobs.
Clearly, more advanced education must be built into the high school curriculum. For years Louisiana, like most other states, has allowed high school students to ‘dual enroll’ and take college classes and/or postsecondary skill training. Louisiana should strengthen this already existing program, so more high school graduates will be able to earn a credential to prepare for these desirable jobs. That is why the Committee of 100 endorses the Board of Regents (BOR) 1+1 and 1 +3 initiative.
As practiced in many states, every eligible Louisiana high school student should have the opportunity to take one year of ‘dual enrollment’ college credit, which means only one more year is required for an associate’s degree or three years for a bachelor’s degree. Together, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Board of Regents (BOR) are encouraged to maximize the use of the last two years of high school so that graduates are prepared to fill the high-quality jobs Louisiana has to offer.
There are two important issues which must be resolved as part of this initiative. Currently no college or university which provides dual credit in high school is fully compensated. Historically, when the state covered the majority of the cost of instruction, institutions could afford to heavily discount the student’s share of the cost. However, in these times of continuing budget cuts when students must now cover most of the costs, colleges and universities can no longer subsidize course costs. Thus, the quality of instruction varies, with many courses being taught by high school faculty. As the PARC Commission’s 2017 Closing the Gap states “the Governor, Legislature and BESE should fully fund dual enrollment” to make sure college faculty offer the classes with the same expectations they have for their own students.
The second challenge relates to student academic preparation. Over 37% of high school graduates need remedial education in English and 58% need remedial education in math. These students cannot be unconditionally admitted to a four-year university but can take dual credit classes while in high school. We support the BOR’s recommendation that remediation is accomplished before high school graduation and before students are permitted to take any academic dual credit classes.
We applaud the BOR’s efforts to increase the rigor and preparation of our high school graduates so that they can seek employment in high-demand fields to achieve their personal and professional goals.
B. Wayne Brown
Louisiana Committee of 100 for Economic Development, Inc.