Opinion: The bigger-is-better promise of college consolidation isn’t true for dual enrollment

The merger of Perimeter College and Georgia State has left the Move on When Ready program a more complicated process for students and parents to navigate, says a former administrator.

Rick Diguette is a frequent Get School contributor on higher ed issues. He is a local writer who retired from college teaching earlier this year.

In this piece, Diguette discusses how the absorption of Georgia Perimeter College into Georgia State University has rendered the Move on When Ready program, which he worked with closely, less responsive and more complicated.

MOWR is a dual enrollment program in which Georgia high school students take college classes. While Diguette focuses on how consolidation has impacted MOWR, he also touches on the dilemma of MOWR. At the same time the governor touts it, some top high schools counsel their students away from it, directing them to AP or IB courses. The high schools maintain their students gain more from AP/IB classes. The state of Georgia ought to underwrite research comparing the college readiness, success and completion of students who opted for MOWR over AP/IB.

I want to share Diguette’s piece because the University System of Georgia promotes the benefits of consolidations. However, the ultimate goal of consolidation — whether it’s colleges combining or school districts — is cost savings. I’ve never seen it happen without someone or some place ending up with less.

By Rick Diguette

As a result of its consolidation with Georgia State University, Perimeter College’s very popular Move On When Ready program has changed and not necessarily for the better. Modifications to the program adversely affect the way students get the information they need to decide if dual enrollment is right for them.  And even when they have that information, they are not likely to receive the guidance necessary to complete the application process, get admitted to the college, and register for classes.

For one thing, beginning earlier this summer one MOWR coordinator was tasked with carrying out a variety of time-consuming administrative and customer service functions for all five Perimeter College campuses.  These include visiting metro Atlanta high schools to promote the program and explain its finer points, responding to hundreds of calls and emails from parents and students on a weekly basis, scheduling and conducting orientation sessions for as many as 1,300 new students each summer, and providing guidance counselors at more than 75 area high schools with time-sensitive registration and grade reports.

The other major change to the program affects admissions and registration, which will now be handled by rank-and-file enrollment services personnel. In the past, MOWR coordinators at each Perimeter College campus and staff vetted and processed admissions documents for these students, including SAT/ACT scores, high school transcripts, lawful presence credentials, and the all important MOWR Student Participation Agreement.

They accomplished this while also fielding the many questions parents, students, and high school guidance counselors typically have about the online college application at GAfutures.org, a website that can seem more like a labyrinth than a navigable information portal.

Rick Diguette

As the former coordinator for the Dunwoody campus, I can attest to at least one important truth about dual enrollment. Many metro Atlanta students must deal with high school counselors and/or principals who would rather see them sign up for Advanced Placement classes. This means they must rely on the campus coordinators for the guidance and assistance they’re not getting at their high schools.

Whether one MOWR coordinator will be able to meet the needs of students at all five Perimeter College campuses is open to question. Some people would like to believe that a new and improved FAQ link or a redesigned webpage will do the trick, which compels me to bring up another truth, this one strictly related to consolidation.

When Georgia State and Perimeter College merged their admissions and registration processes last summer, people like me soon had to cope with an array of technology problems which often left us scrambling to admit and register students, and this was true for MOWR applicants as well as entering freshmen, transfers, and transients. To make matters worse, there was a reluctance on the part of the downtown campus to take ownership of these problems even though it has been calling all the shots since January of 2016. Fixes were slow in coming, when they came at all. Some of these problems were simply ignored, while new problems continued to arise.

The changes being made to the Perimeter College MOWR program are firmly grounded in the consolidation mandated by the Board of Regents in 2015. Georgia State University’s downtown Atlanta campus, which has its own MOWR program of about 200 students, simply does things differently. And if there has been one constant during the consolidation, it’s that Perimeter College had to change. Someone even turned this fact into a humorous equation needing no explanation:  A (GSU) + B (Perimeter College) = A. But can a program with 1,400 students at five different campuses be administered like one with only 200 students all attending the same campus?

The powers that be at Georgia State seem to think so, or they are constrained to think so in light of the University System of Georgia’s recently announced Comprehensive Administrative Review, which “is a system-wide initiative focused on improving administration through creating efficiencies, streamlining processes and finding ways to be more effective with USG resources.” This appears to be a variation on doing more with less, which in recent years has become a familiar refrain at Perimeter College.

That 11th and 12th graders can satisfy high school graduation requirements while earning transferable college credits at virtually no cost tells me the Perimeter College MOWR program will survive despite the ill-conceived changes Georgia State has put in place.

Nonetheless, parents and students should understand that during the MOWR application and registration process much will depend on their ability to deal with frustrating procedures, which have only grown worse since consolidation. Their patience will be tried when phones don’t get answered and emails don’t get returned in a timely fashion. And they can expect to be asked to submit admissions documents more than once simply because an earlier submission has found its way into a black hole somewhere. Time will tell if these are merely growing pains or self-inflicted wounds that do lasting damage to a very popular school choice program.

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24 comments
bicami
bicami

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MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Georgia State University wanted to respond to this blog, especially the enrollment numbers for Move on When Ready, which the blog author obtained a few days before classes started.

Here is GSU’s response from Vice Provost Timothy M. Renick, vice president for enrollment management and student success: 


Move on When Ready enrollments at Perimeter College are not down 15% for the fall.

In fact, as of this morning, the enrollments are up by 17%. This translates into almost 200 more MOWR students enrolled at Perimeter compared to the same date last year.  

We have intentionally been moving from the part-time faculty model that GPC historically deployed to support MOWR students to one that is more responsive and assigns full-time staff to the manage the program.

Each Perimeter campus has at least one administrative person who is assigned to answer questions and to help process paperwork for MOWR.  The Clarkston and Newton campuses already have and the Alpharetta and Decatur campuses will soon have dedicated personnel who assist with the MOWR program.  We have co-located MOWR with Admissions in Alpharetta to provide better service to students and families.  A new Assistant Director for MOWR is being hired who will sit at Alpharetta and be charged with managing the Perimeter Dual Enrollment program and with increasing communication with the partner high schools, especially those in North Fulton. The State Farm grant has provided funds to hire a staff person to focus on MOWR at the Decatur campus.

 The Enrollment Management team at Georgia State has indeed decided to change the way MOWR information is processed to more closely mirror what is done on the Atlanta campus.  While the article presents this as a negative, there were tremendous inefficiencies and gaps in the way MOWR had traditionally been handled at PC.  Even though Georgia State's hiring of staff to support dual enrollment at Perimeter is not yet complete, the significant increases in MOWR enrollments at Perimeter College this fall are evidence that some of these changes, far from being harmful, have significantly increased access to these programs for students.  

Perimeter College will have the largest class of new students in its history this fall.  We are up 1,250 new students enrolled overall for the fall at Perimeter College, a 25% increase date-to-date over last year (and as far as the data go back, a record-size incoming first-year class).  It is not just that more new students are enrolling; more are succeeding, as well.  Over the past year, Associate degrees awarded at Perimeter College have increased by 17% over the previous year.

redweather
redweather

@MaureenDowney Not according to the numbers available via GSU's iport. New enrollment of DE students for Fall 2017 compared to new DE enrollment for Fall 2016 is still down by 10%. 

EnglProf
EnglProf

One aspect of the DE versus AP debate in Georgia that I rarely see mentioned but that regularly causes frustration at the college level is the legislative requirements for US History and American Government classes. All students in the USG are required to take and pass a US History class and POLS 1101 (American Government) or, if they bring in AP credit for these, special tests on the subjects that include sections on Georgia history and government - special tests these students oftentimes do not pass. When they fail to pass the tests, they then must take the classes, despite the AP credit they previously earned. Understandably, Georgia students and their parents are frustrated when they learn of the requirements and many ask why they were not informed of the requirements when in high school.

Many say that if they had known about the requirements, they would have taken the DE classes instead, thereby fulfilling the requirements and earning the college credits.

I wish the high schools would tell students, or if they are telling them, emphasize the requirements more. It would save people from a good deal of frustration and angst.

gapeach101
gapeach101

I think when you have two schools with two different missions, it is a mistake to combine them.  The same thing happened with Southern Poly and Kennesaw.  Just because they are in close proximity doesn't  mean they should be married to each other.

redweather
redweather

@gapeach101 The mission of GPC as an access institution of higher learning really took a hit when it was merged with GSU. It is now considered an access institution for GSU exclusively.

bu22
bu22

@gapeach101  I agree with the comment, but not with the idea that Southern Poly and Kennesaw had different missions.  They just had different majors.

Sarah Kate Marshall
Sarah Kate Marshall

School counselor (not guidance) here... this is already out of date. We received an email this week that GA DOE changed the name back to "dual enrollment" from MOWR. Just another change high schools need to adjust to (and change on all documents, oh and school has already started) while being expected to know their county policies and courses as well as an entire University system. No one can argue with the financial benefits of dual enrollment, but when I go to a college admissions training and the admissions officer says "we prefer the most rigorous courses at the high school" aka AP and IB... I'm going to advise my students that way. Additionally, since students can technically be dually enrolled beginning freshmen year of high school (usually a technical college), we need to consider the social/ emotional development of those students who are going through puberty but now wielding a blow torch (welding program) on a college campus with any age of adults. Lots to consider. Just my two cents as someone who is shoulder-deep in the field.

redweather
redweather

And try finding info about MOWR or DE at the GADOE website. Not easy.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

This is the story of quite a lot of "efficiencies" at our USGa and tech schools that actually make it harder to get simple tasks done.  In addition, the state tends to start programs without consulting those tasked with making it work, without looking down the road for problems, and, frequently without adequate evaluation and oversight.


It's been going on for at least 25 years.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Wascatlady  Yes. And this process of consolidating USG universities (not just tech schools) is only going to continue, speeded up. Too often, it seems that the process is not "consolidation" but engulfment, with the faculty, programs, and identity of the smaller institution pretty much ignored by the larger one.

MK24
MK24

Colleges admissions officers above a certain level of university (Eg top 50 schools) will tell students point blank at college fairs that that are fully aware that APUSH at Walton or Dunwoody is meaningfully more rigorous than History 1101 etc at GPC. Which is obvious: the competition is fierce in the AP class at those schools. Less homework, better chance of an A, what's not to like?

MOWR serves an excellent purpose for some students and in some cases (Eg the 95% of students not shooting for those schools, or those who take MOWR only after exhausting all the APs at their school, as happens at many small rural schools), but those striving for tip-top schools do themselves a disservice in choosing MOWR over AP.

Those admissions folks probably won't agree to be quoted in an article or would just deny it, but it's been that way for a decade plus.

Even some of the folks at our in state universities have recommended exhausting all AP opportunities at your school whenever possible.

gapeach101
gapeach101

@MK24 This may be, but not everyone can attend Walton or Dunwoody.  So then which is better?  I submit a MOWR course at a University is better than a MOWR course at a two year school.   

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@MK24 I disagree with you completely on this. The push by the high schools to have students take AP/IB over dual enrollment is a survival technique because if most students who could do and should do dual enrollment did the high school would lose teachers.  You have no stats to support your thoughts and yet if you go to ed stats clearinghouses you will find that a student is no more likely to get into a top university with AP/IB over dual-enrollment.


Parents - don't believe the high school teacher survivalist notions.  If your child is academically and socially ready, save yourself a ton of money and consider dual enrollment.  For students looking at post-grad programs, this is a great way to end 7-8 years in a university and consolidate the two degrees to 5-6 years.  Money and time saved.  Post grad admissions - could care less where and when undergrad was done as long as the course work and grad entry test scores are high. 

redweather
redweather

@Beach Bound2020 @MK24 I'm told there was a school counselor (didn't know guidance was a bad word) at Chamblee who told students DE was for the stupid kids. I doubt he was alone.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@redweather @Beach Bound2020 @MK24 I doubt you are going to say that about the current group of students who did dual enrollment, already have their admissions to GA Medical and are fast tracking through undergrad and will be through that and med school in 6 total years.  There are programs for law school and MBA as well.  Doubt any of them think they are stupid.  A Master's is almost a requirement for great jobs and careers now.  Students and families are smarter than a school counselor, with horrible guidance to discourage students from this amazing program.  Again, not for everyone, but certainly not for stupid kids. 

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

The real reasons for the absorption were both political and financial.

The Board of Regents was supposed to audit Georgia Perimeter annually. They should have discovered the Georgia Perimeter shenanigans early on. But they either didn't audit or did an inadequate job, leaving egg on their faces when the shenanigans later became public knowledge. That was the political part.

They had Georgia Perimeter absorbed into GSU so the Georgia Perimeter financial problems could be easier hidden inside a much larger budget. That was the financial part.

None of this would have happened had the Board of Regents been doing its job.

Me. And my opinions.
Me. And my opinions.

The issues discussed are not limited to MOWR. There are many places where the uniqueness of the Perimeter campuses is being forced into the idea of downtown. And many places in which it just doesn't work. A multi-campus institution needs a multi-campus structure.

Chanda RobertsWhite
Chanda RobertsWhite

Too get around the behemoth, of which I love, GSU, we selected Clayton State University for our 11th grader. A friend of hers is at GSU-downtown, another at Panthersville. It's only been a week, but downtown 11th grader is rethinking MOWR to Clayton State. Perhaps USG should review how Emory (which doesn't accept dual enrollment credits, better take AP) and Oxford do recruiting, admissions, etc., and attempt to replicate some of its good ideas. I concur with much of what he states. But I have one lingering question: When our kids begin applying for college are they freshman or transfer students.

Nikki Jones
Nikki Jones

They are considered freshmen who enter college with college credit.

Diane Jacobi
Diane Jacobi

It depends - if the student has 30 or more dual-enrollment credits, then they can be considered a transfer student.

Chanda RobertsWhite
Chanda RobertsWhite

Thanks. By the time she completes junior and senior years, she will have enough college credits to be considered a sophomore