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With the first day of classes on the horizon, I encourage our high school students to take advantage of dual credit courses this school year.

The 2018-19 school year marks the fifth year that high school students have had access to low-cost dual credit courses through our state’s public universities and technical institutes. These courses give students great opportunities to learn about a wide variety of careers. They include general education subjects and everything from animal science to wind technology. They’re truly a win-win-win opportunity.

Students win because these courses allow them to simultaneously earn high school and college credit. At only $48.33 per credit hour, these are the cheapest university and technical institute courses a student will ever take, giving them a head start on college or tech school. At a time when the cost of college is a great concern, that is significant.

High schools win because they can expand their course offerings at no cost to the school district.

Universities and technical institutes win too. Although we do ask them to discount their tuition rate, this program attracts more South Dakota students to our institutions, retains more freshmen after the first year and helps graduate students on time.

The popularity of this program has consistently exceeded expectations, with student participation numbers growing every year. In 2014-15, the first year of the program, about 2,100 students took at least one dual credit course. Though we don’t have summer term numbers yet, participation looks to be nearly double that with approximately 3,900 students taking advantage of dual credit so far during the 2017-18 school year. And many students take more than one dual credit offering over the course of their high school years.

We want all students to be engaged and prepared for the future. More than simply graduating from high school, we want them to be thinking about what comes afterward. They should be asking themselves, “What interests me? Where are my strengths? How can I use those interests and strengths to prepare for a good job and an exciting career?”

Dual credit courses can help high school students find answers to those questions while adjusting to the rigor expected of them in post-secondary education.

Ultimately, dual credit has the power to put students on the fast track to bright futures.

Dennis Daugaard is the governor of South Dakota.

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