The Georgia Senate has unanimously approved a bipartisan education bill that plans to change graduation requirements for high school students in the state who also enroll in technical colleges and universities.
Currently, a dual enrollment program is already in place in the state that connects local technical schools with high schools for a number of classes. However, the credits received in those classes do not count toward high school graduation.
A top priority for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the bill would require students to be at least 16 years old and have completed all requirements for the ninth and tenth grades. In order to receive dual credits, students would need to meet the requirements to receive an associate degree, a technical college diploma, industry occupational certifications or licenses required to work in certain fields or complete two technical college certificate of credit programs, writes Michelle Wirth for WABE.
"For some students, we need to offer another alternative," Cagle said. "If a student is ready to successfully begin a program of study after the 10th grade, let's not hold them back."
If approved, the Georgia Department of Education would merge technical colleges and universities in the state.
"It's not about waiving rigorous graduation requirements, but about the substitution of other rigorous courses that are intensely focused and specialized in a students' chosen career pathway," Sen. Lindsey Tippins says. "Truth of the matter, today's graduation requirements are not always in sync with the realities of the 21st century job market."
Supporters of the bill are hopeful that it will lessen the number of high school dropouts in the state. In 2014, the Georgia Department of Education reported the high school graduation rate for the state to be 72.5%, more than 7 percentage points below the national high school graduation rate.
Senate Democrats are also standing in support of the bill, which they believe helps two kinds of students in the state.
"â¦Those who are higher achievers and can move on, and those who simply who don't want to stay in high school because they have a certain level of hopelessness," Ramsay says. "This bill allows them to receive the kind of industry certification that can allow them to have living wages and high paying jobs so they can be productive members of our state."
Last year the state released a report based on complaints from multiple CEOs of various industries who feel they are unable to find qualified workers in Georgia. More recently, the Obama administration has renewed their focus on the role of community and technical colleges in the creation of a more qualified workforce across the country.