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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 3:40 am

Lawmakers bristle over dual-credit rules

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers serving on a dual-credit advisory council expressed frustration Monday that a higher education entity can make rules that affect the state’s dual-credit program.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Mount Vernon, are looking to co-author a resolution in the General Assembly essentially condemning the Higher Learning Commission.

"Why should the Higher Learning Commission have more authority over our students in Indiana than the state government?" Kruse asked.

McNamara said an unelected board in another state is usurping Indiana’s state sovereignty.

"They aren’t budging on a lot of things and not really caring about the impact on our state," she added.

The Higher Learning Commission is one of six regional accreditors in the United States. It accredits degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in 19 states, including Indiana. It is not the state higher education commission.

The commission recently changed a rule affecting all teachers who teach college credit courses but has a major effect on dual-credit courses that students take in high school for college credit.

The comments came at a meeting of the dual-credit advisory council headed by Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers and Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.

Lubbers reminded the group that being part of the Higher Learning Commission is voluntary but if Indiana isn’t part of it, students attending Indiana colleges and universities wouldn’t be eligible for federal financial aid or Pell grants.

She said state institutions don’t want to put their students at risk of that and are not asking to be removed from accreditation.

The Higher Learning Commission’s new rule change requires a high school teacher to hold a master’s degree to teach a dual-credit course. But it’s a secondary factor that is causing the big problem.

It also requires those teachers to have 18 master-level credit hours in the subject matter they are teaching.

Previously the policy said teachers must have credentials consistent with those required for on-campus faculty or have a development plan approved by the college to satisfy the requirement.

The end result could mean about 1,800 Indiana teachers no longer being able to teach dual-credit courses unless they go back to graduate school to get more hours. Only 745 – or 29 percent – meet the requirements. 

Data released Monday showed that only 36 percent of the faculty teaching dual-credit courses for IPFW meet the new requirements. That leaves almost 100 teachers in need of additional graduate coursework. 

Schools got a reprieve late last week when the Higher Learning Commission decided to let institutions apply for extensions on meeting the new requirements from 2017 to 2022. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education will spearhead that process and is collecting specific data to show why the extension is needed.

Meanwhile, the dual-credit advisory group on Monday discussed possible ways to encourage teachers to go back for their master’s or finish graduate course work.

Some examples included schools giving teachers stipends for each dual-credit class they teach or agreeing to cover the cost of the masters classes needed in exchange for a promise to stay at the district for a number of years.