Alabama’s chancellor of post-secondary education, Mark Heinrich, has an idea to put college courses within the grasp of high school students – make the classes free.
From the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s winter conference, AL.com reported Tuesday that Heinrich was working with lawmakers on a measure to make dual enrollment courses free for high school students.
"We've spent a decade preparing students for a test rather than preparing students for adulthood and for a career and college ...," Heinrich said.
"What I'm suggesting at this point is that state of Alabama work out some sort of situation that would allow any high school student who is interested in dual enrollment to participate in that," he said.
There’s no doubt that school should prepare students for the paths they may take after graduation, whether technical or academic pursuits or straight into the workforce. If dual enrollment helps accomplish that, then administrators would do well to encourage it.
However, embarking on an initiative to provide those classes “free” is, perhaps, too ambitious.
In this case, “free” is a misnomer. In public education, taxpayers foot the bills. In many parts of the state – like Houston County -- referenda that would increase local tax support for schools are overwhelmingly defeated. In the last few years, colleges and universities in Alabama have put double-digit tuition hikes on their students. In the K-12 realm, proration and other cuts have all but crippled many school systems. Some even lack adequate materials such as textbooks for all their students.
Chancellor Heinrich deserves credit for seeking innovative ways to educate our young and, yes, boost enrollment at the state’s two-year colleges. We’re not sure that offering some classes for free while charging dearly for others is the best way to do so.