Recruit & Retain (University of Missouri -- St. Louis)

Advancing the Achievers

When the Advanced Credit Program (ACP) began at the University of Missouri – St. Louis (UMSL) in 1986 it was billed as a “cure for senioritis” because it gave high school students an opportunity to challenge themselves and earn college credits.

UMSL’s ACP attracted 919 students its first year. Since then, ACP has grown to include more than 70 metropolitan area high schools and during the fall of 2013 more than 4,400 high schools students were enrolled. Within the past five years, ACP increased the number of enrolled students by 25 percent. We expect that trend to continue.

Opportunities for Teachers and Students

Students enrolled in dual credit or concurrent enrollment programs benefit from challenging academic courses, while getting a head start on their college careers. They save time and money. Students can earn anywhere from three to more than 30 hours of college credit, depending on the number of course offerings at the high school where they are enrolled. Unlike some other programs, dual credit courses are actual college courses. Instructors follow the same syllabus as the on-campus course, which may require readings, discussions, presentations, papers, projects and/or exams. When students have completed a course they receive a letter grade and a college transcript from UMSL, the same as any matriculated student.

In Missouri, ACP instructors must have the same credentials as on-campus adjuncts at the university. This means that the instructors must have a master’s degree that includes at least 18 graduate credit hours in their subject area. The ACP offers a generous scholarship plan to support high school teachers who are earning their master’s degrees to become qualified to offer their courses for dual credit. Every course is also monitored by university liaisons to ensure that the standards of the college course are being met. The course syllabus, textbooks and assessment must be approved by department liaisons. The ACP currently offers over 40 courses, ranging from fine art to biology.

The Path to Advanced Credit

ACP dual credit students have the same privileges as our oncampus students. ACP students have access to our libraries, both online and on-campus, sporting events and lectures. They may even visit UMSL’s virtual writing lab to get help on their papers. ACP also encourages class visits to campus. During the visit, students and their instructors attend an on-campus section of the course that they are taking in their high school. They often get a full tour of UMSL’s campus, which frequently includes instruction on how to use the online library systems.

While the main goal of ACP is to provide an academic challenge to high school students, ACP staff members are also available to provide other services to our high school partners. Our department liaisons may be asked to teach a class at the high school or a school/teacher may ask the ACP to speak to their students about how dual credit can help prepare students for the full rigors of college.

Rewards of the ACP

Recruitment is not the main goal of the ACP, but exposure to the university through our courses, liaisons and campus visits can be supportive of that goal. ACP also hosts an annual “Breakfast with the Deans” event, where ACP students and their parents meet and speak informally with many members of our campus community. Among those attending from UMSL are the chancellor, deans and department chairs. ACP has also been able to invite students to on-campus events such as the Foreign Languages open house and UMSL Day. Another recruiting tool offered through ACP is the UMSL Bound Scholarship. Students who have taken at least one ACP course and choose to attend UMSL as an incoming freshmen have an opportunity to apply for one of 12, $12,000 UMSL Bound scholarships that we award each year.

ACP is very proud to have earned accreditation through the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). This organization ensures that college courses taught by high school teachers are as rigorous as the on-campus courses. As an accredited institution we adhere to the high standards that are set by NACEP to create the most seamless transition for our students from high school to college.

ACP provides high school students and teachers a tremendous avenue to advance their educations and careers and is an increasingly important component of UMSL’s commitment to student access and success.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Kathleen Burns is director of the Advanced Credit Program at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.