Online College Courses for High School Students
Taking college courses online is a great way for high school students to get ahead!
Many colleges and universities offer online classes that high school students can complete outside of the typical school day and independent of their high school curriculum.
Some institutions have developed partnerships with area high schools, offering what’s known as dual enrollment.
What is (and isn’t) dual enrollment?
Dual enrollment – also known as “concurrent enrollment” or “joint enrollment” – programs are collaborative efforts between high schools and colleges that allow high school students to enroll in and earn credit for college-level courses. So with each dual-credit course, you earn credit that goes toward your high school requirements, and at the same time you also earn college credit. It’s like taking a class once, but getting credit for it twice!
Dual-enrolled students can earn credit that they will eventually transfer to a 4-year university, or they may even complete a certification or Associates degree while still in high school.
Dual-credit courses should not be considered pre-college or college preparatory courses. They are college level courses. They will require the same exams and assignments and be just as rigorous and demanding as courses offered on a university campus.
How are dual enrollment courses different than AP courses?
You are probably familiar with Advanced Placement courses (AP courses) and/or International Baccalaureate courses (IB courses). AP and IB courses, like dual enrollment, expose high school students to college level work and provide them the opportunity to earn college credit.
The primary difference between the options is the measure of performance and the awarding of credit.
In AP and IB courses, performance is determined by a final standardized test. If your test score is high enough, you may earn college credit. Typically, your college transcript will indicate “CR” for the subject and will not impact your GPA.
Performance in dual enrollment courses, on the other hand, is evaluated based upon participation, coursework, and regular exams, which result in a final grade. Your college transcript will include your earned letter grade, and that grade will impact your GPA.
The settings may also differ. AP and IB courses are taken in a high school setting, amongst other high school students. Dual enrollment courses may be taken in your high school, at a local college, or online.
Who can participate in dual enrollment?
Years ago, dual enrollment programs were aimed at top tier students who sought more challenging courses. But today these programs benefit a wide range of students looking to get started on their college degrees.
The regulations and requirements for dual-credit programs vary from state to state. Many programs are limited to high school juniors and seniors, while a few allow sophomores or have a minimum age. Often schools require that participants maintain a minimum GPA (usually between 2.5 and 3.0).
To learn about the rules and opportunities within your state or district, you will need to speak with your high school guidance counselor.
How much will dual enrollment courses cost?
Most dual enrollment program websites specify the cost high school students can expect to pay, and whether financial aid is available.
Whether the cost is paid for by participants, by the state or by the students’ school district varies from state to state. A 2016 report by the Education Commission of the States outlines how this is determined:
- Local decision: 13 states
- Student/Parent is responsible for the cost: 9 states
- State covers the cost: 5 states
- Student’s school district covers the cost: 4 states
- Student/Parent and state share the cost: 1 state
- Student/Parent and district share the cost: 3 states
- No set policy: 3 states
The remaining 12 states have multiple programs available, and the costs vary by program.
Will my dual-enrollment credits transfer to any college?
Most dual-enrollment courses can be transferred either to the host university (the one you took the classes through) or to other colleges and universities around the US. Ultimately it is up to the receiving institution whether they will honor the credit you earned.
The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) is the nation’s sole accrediting body for dual enrollment partnerships, and the agency insures that programs are authentic and adhere to the highest standards. If your program is a member of the NACEP, it’s well-respected and the credit you receive will very likely transfer to the college or university of your choice.
What are the benefits of taking online college courses in high school
1. Cutting Costs
The most obvious and exciting benefit to dual enrollment is the cost savings! Most of these programs offer the equivalent of their on-campus classes– with the same professors, same coursework, and same resources available to you – at a fraction of the price!
At Taylor University, for example, high school students pay just $200 per credit hour for their college credits, while traditional college students pay $400 per credit hour. High school students can take as many as 24 credit hours at this reduced rate!
Additionally, as high school students and as online learners, students will be partaking in college without having the added costs of housing, meal plans and other living expenses associated with traditional campus life.
2. Finish college faster
Getting a jumpstart on your college degree while still in high school, means you’ll spend less time on it later. You may begin college with a semester or more already under your belt!
3. More prepared for college-level coursework
Dual-credit courses will give you a sense of what college is really like. You will receive a syllabus, have assigned reading and assignments, be tested, and generally be exposed to the academic expectations of college.
Once you graduate from high school and attend college as a first-year student, you will feel more prepared and at ease knowing what professors expect from you academically.
4. Assess college readiness
Students who struggle in their first year of college may be well prepared for the academic challenges, but lack the time management or study skills necessary to succeed in the college environment.
Having this introduction to college courses will help you determine how prepared you are to enter that type of learning environment full-time, and what skills you may need to work on.
5. Broader course selection
Your high school may not offer math courses beyond Calculus or a history class focused only on the Great Depression. Online dual-enrollment courses can allow you to progress further and dig deeper into a favorite subject, or explore something highly specialized. They may even help you hone in on a potential college major or determine your eventual career path.
What colleges offer online college courses for high school students?
If you are interested in earning college credit while still in high school, you should speak with your high school guidance counselor. He or she will be able to explain the requirements in your state and at your school, and tell you about any partnerships they have established.
Below are a few examples of colleges that offer college credit programs, including dual enrollment programs, for high school students. You can discuss these programs with your guidance counselor and find out whether they may be an option for you!
Grand Canyon University (Arizona)
Grand Canyon University offers a dual enrollment program at a reduced tuition rate of $210 per course ($52.50 per credit) with an additional $85 digital course materials fee for online students. The school is regionally accredited, and students can expect their credits to transfer to most universities.
- High school sophomore with a GPA of 3.25 or higher
- High school junior or senior with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Students taking English or math courses must complete an online placement test
Examples of classes:
- Introduction to Economics
- Crime & Criminology
- Computer Programming I
- Introduction to Sports Management
- Child and Early Adolescent Development and Psychology
University of Florida (Florida)
The University of Florida’s fully online dual enrollment courses are taught by top UF professors and follow the UF academic calendar. The program is open to a number of Florida school districts and is partnering with new districts every year.
- High school junior or senior with a GPA of 3.6 or higher
- Composite score of 1100 on the SAT, 22 on the ACT or 1130 on the PSAT
- No more than 2 online dual enrollment courses per semester
Examples of classes:
- Economic Issues, Food and You
- Survey of Architectural History
- Age of Dinosaurs
- Rock N Roll and American History
- Introduction to Principles of Physics
East Tennessee State University (Tennessee)
More than half of East Tennessee State University’s dual enrollment courses are offered online. There are a variety of financial aid opportunities, and students who qualify could pay as little as $74 per 3-credit-hour course.
- Completed high school sophomore or junior year with a GPA of 3.2 or higher
- ACT score of 19 or SAT equivalent (may use PLAN scores)
- Permission from parents/guardians and high school principal/counselor
Examples of classes:
- Introduction to Music
- Science and the Modern World
- History of Tennessee
- Probability and Statistics
- Argumentation and Debate
Cornell University (New York)
Through Cornell University Summer College, high school students can get a taste of the Ivy League experience. Tuition for the 3-week and 6-week summer programs is $1410 per credit, and high school students are not eligible for financial aid.
- High school sophomore, junior or senior
- No more than 8 credits in a 6-week session, or 4 credits in a 3-week session
Examples of Classes:
- Human Evolution: Genes, Behavior, and the Fossil Record
- Introduction to International Relations
- Introduction to Personality
- Visual Communication
- Green World / Blue Planet
Taylor University (Indiana)
Taylor University’s fully accredited program uses an independent study format, which means you can enroll at any time, start courses the next day, and finish within 4 months. High school students pay $200 per credit hour, which is a 50% savings.
- 16-19 years old
Examples of classes:
- Ethics in Leadership
- Fitness for Life
- Information Technology Concepts
- Cultural Anthropology
- Social Studies, Science and Math for the Preschool and Kindergarten Classroom
Oregon State University (Oregon)
Oregon State University offers more than 100 online courses to high school students. These courses are not intended to replace the high school curriculum, so it is up to your school to determine whether you will also receive high school credit for the courses. While there isn’t a reduced tuition rate, some high school students have been able to have the costs covered by their school districts.
- No more than 8 credits per term
Examples of classes:
- Exploring the Deep: Geography of the World’s Oceans
- First-Year American Sign Language
- Financial Literacy for College Life
- Computers: Application and Implications
- Food Science and Technology in Western Culture
Troy University (Alabama)
Troy University’s dual enrollment program, called ACCELERATE, boasts an extensive course list and a fast-paced academic calendar. Their accredited courses cost $169 per credit hour, and are designed to transfer to any college or university.
- High school sophomore, junior or senior with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Composite score of 20 on the ACT, 1030 on the SAT (no writing) or a letter or recommendation from a high school administrator
Examples of classes:
- University Orientation
- Classical Mythology
- Introduction to Theatre
- Composition and Modern English I
- Business Calculus
As you can see, taking online college courses – through dual enrollment or simply by taking independent college classes – while still in high school is an excellent way to get your feet wet. You will be exposed to new and interesting subjects, as well as the academic rigors of college.
Taking online college courses can also afford you the opportunity to complete your college degree faster while saving money.
It’s a win-win!