Every year, ambitious students across the world participate in college-level learning experiences while still in high school. More than 2 million American high school students do so annually. It is increasingly common for those students to complete a full year of college courses by the time they graduate from high school. Such an accomplishment not only strengthens their academic profile when seeking admission to the university of their choice, but it also saves their families a significant sum of money that can later be used for graduate studies or starting careers.
The Dual Enrollment Consortium (DEC) provides accredited U.S. university courses to academically prepared students in Asian high schools. It was established by a group of university presidents who have long maintained substantive academic relationships with universities, professors, students, and families in Asia. The presidents share a “best practice” philosophy of teaching and learning for beginning second language students that values both course content knowledge and academic English. Thus, the learning experiences can take a little longer and incorporate first languages early on. The important dual objective of DEC courses is knowing the material fully and being able to express that knowledge in English, but that does not mean that first languages cannot be helpful in the process. Actually, the DEC recognizes that there are students for whom the opposite is true.
The Consortium’s institutional presidents also share a commitment to honoring the financial investment many families in Asia make so that their children can pursue a U.S. university degree. Students who begin with DEC courses while in high school can continue at Consortium universities with the assurance that they will not have to navigate the challenges of college study and life alone. Nor will their studies need to stop, even if they leave the U.S. and return to Asia before graduation. The return on the family’s investment is more likely than it is on a less structured path.
Dual Enrollment courses offered by Consortium members combine the learning objectives of upper-level secondary courses with those of first-year university courses in the U.S. The enriched courses are team-taught by university faculty and high school faculty with graduate degrees. Many students and families prefer this path that includes actually completing a college course rather than sitting for an external exam following an enriched high school course. DEC member courses are accepted by most universities in the U.S., although a very small number of American colleges do not yet transfer in any form of early college credits (e.g. DEC, IB, AP).
Richard Bland College of William and Mary, Lakeland University, and Virginia Wesleyan University are the founding members of the DEC and provide the university coursework and credits to students in participating high schools in Asia. The Consortium is headquartered on the campus of Virginia Wesleyan University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. Students who successfully complete the Dual Enrollment courses can earn a valuable U.S. bachelor's degree within three years of graduation. That saving of money and time is one of four distinguishing advantages of this Dual Enrollment program.
A second important advantage offered by the DEC, as mentioned above, is that students can complete their U.S. bachelor's degree even if unplanned disruptions like a global pandemic or changing family circumstances require them to return home before completing degree studies in the U.S. Two DEC member universities enroll students from anywhere in the world using current communication technology if those students need to complete some or all of their last two years of coursework at home rather than on campus.
Two other important advantages of the DEC program are unique in protecting the significant investment made by families who recognize the value a U.S. university degree can have in a global economy that regularly uses American English and the U.S. dollar for transactions. One is philosophical and was mentioned previously. Faculty of the DEC member institutions are committed to ensuring that students acquire the important knowledge taught in courses even while their English skills are developing. Therefore, although the courses are all taught in English and with English texts, tutorials using a student's first language are readily available.
Even though the need for such tutoring diminishes with time, some Dual Enrollment students take their second year of University coursework (first year after dual enrollment high school graduation) at DEC member Lakeland University's campus in Tokyo (LUJ), operated in partnership with VWU Global (Japan). LUJ's courses and campus life are all in English but the support for increasing academic English language skills is stronger than at most campuses in the U.S. Students from more than 30 countries have completed their second year at LUJ and then transferred to one of more than 100 different U.S. universities.
That leads to the fourth advantage provided by the DEC, transfer of credits to highly ranked universities across the U.S. Richard Bland College is a residential two-year branch campus of The College of William and Mary, which is ranked by U.S. News Best Colleges as one of the ten best public universities in the United States. Students completing their associate's degree at Richard Bland College continue bachelor's degree studies at William and Mary when academic and English skills meet the William and Mary standards. Richard Bland also maintains formal transfer agreements with 44 other highly respected U.S. universities (e.g. University of Virginia and Virginia Tech University) for students who do not continue at William and Mary. Richard Bland and LUJ students are sought after by excellent universities in all regions of the U.S.
The Dual Enrollment Consortium’s host institution is Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU). VWU is home to the prestigious Batten Honors College and maintains special admissions agreements with graduate schools at Duke University, the University of Virginia, and several medical schools.
In 2018, some students and their families asked that LUJ, the Consortium member campus in Tokyo, expand its degree offerings to include bachelor’s (4-year) as well as associate’s (2-year) degrees. The University responded affirmatively by bringing bachelor’s degree programs from Wisconsin to the campus in Tokyo. An increasing number of students are now completing all four years of baccalaureate study there, usually including a study abroad experience at either Lakeland or Virginia Wesleyan in the United States.
Inquiries into Dual Enrollment Consortium programs and opportunities should be directed to:
Professor David Black, Ph.D.
Dual Enrollment Consortium
Virginia Wesleyan University
5817 Wesleyan Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23455