Ohio audit shows mixed financial impact for colleges offering College Credit Plus

How much an institution makes on CCP depends on delivery method, amount of classes, details of support services

Universities and colleges that offered College Credit Plus programs last school year vary widely in how much they benefited from the program, according to an Auditor of State report from December.

The audit, which investigated last school year’s results, found that colleges and universities that offer CCP to high school students generally get enough tuition revenue to cover direct instructional costs, but that the support costs to a college offering CCP — staff that recruit and enroll CCP students, for example — varies.

College Credit Plus allows Ohio students in grades seven through 12 to take college-level courses for credit. It is free for students in public schools, and all public higher education institutions in Ohio are required to provide some form of CCP.

The program is popular with high school students and their families, who have said it is a way to get students through college faster and more affordably. Some critics say many CCP students with college credit still take four years or longer to graduate.

“It is therefore important, especially in light of declining traditional student enrollment, for the long term fiscal health of Ohio higher education for institutions and policymakers to understand the net cost of this unique student segment and to incorporate CCP into recruiting plans,” the audit said in its conclusion.

Costs of College Credit Plus

Colleges and universities receive payment for CCP courses in two ways — via a transfer of the host K-12 school district’s state funding, and via State Share of Instruction funding for colleges.

The costs of CCP to universities can depend on the delivery method. Some institutions offer more instruction online or from high school teachers, while others offer classes on their college campuses or through professors on high school campuses.

Tuition per CCP credit hour is $41 if the class is taught by a high school instructor at the high school. It’s $83 if a college instructor teaches it at the high school, and it’s $166 if the class is at the college or online, according to the audit.

Measuring only tuition and direct instructional expenses, 25 of 31 colleges came out ahead financially on CCP — from $116,000 ahead at Rio Grande, to about $530,000 ahead at Wright State and Miami, to $1.7 million ahead at Sinclair to $7.3 million ahead at Shawnee State.

But once support costs are factored in, only 16 of those 31 schools come out ahead. And Sinclair’s $1.7 million surplus turns into a $38,000 deficit. Sinclair officials noted the audit was released right before the holidays and is currently being analyzed by the Sinclair CCP team, in collaboration with the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

The audit says the colleges did not report CCP-related expenses in the same way, throwing some doubt on the numbers.

“While some of this variation may reflect real differences in underlying program costs, much of the reported variation arises from the different accounting choices and assumptions colleges made when compiling their responses to the (audit) survey,” the audit says, calling it a “nuanced cost accounting exercise.”

Wright State University spokesman Seth Bauguess said the university’s CCP program relies on what the high school has available.

For a campus that has a lot of highly qualified English teachers, those instructors may be the best option to teach a class for college credit. But for a high school that lacks many foreign language options, Wright State may offer to supplement with their own courses.

“Our CCP offerings typically illustrate an effort to align a district’s desire to provide advanced, college-level coursework with outstanding high school teachers who are credentialed, per state regulations, to deliver credit-bearing courses in the high school,” Bauguess said.

Sinclair reported about 55% of CCP students chose online classes in the 2021-2022 school year, according to its website, while 32% of students chose high school-taught CCP classes. About 8% chose a class taught by Sinclair faculty, while 5% chose a class on Sinclair’s campus. Popular classes included English 1101 and 1201.

“Sinclair’s College Credit Plus program is part of the portfolio of educationally successful, financially sustainable endeavors,” said Cathy Petersen, spokeswoman for the university.

Community colleges rely more on CCP

The audit found that community colleges are often providing more CCP credit hours than universities, and CCP hours are often a greater percentage of the total credit hours the college offers than the universities.

Of the top 10 providers of CCP credit hours in the state, seven of the institutions are community colleges. The top four are Columbus State, Sinclair, Cuyahoga Community College and Stark State. Kent State University is the fifth-largest provider of CCP hours, Bowling Green is eighth, and the University of Akron is the 10th.

The report found Columbus State attempted nearly 70,000 hours of CCP credits, while Sinclair reported trying for around 60,000 hours. Kent State, which attempted the fifth-largest number of CCP credit hours, landed closer to 40,000 hours.

But Kent State reported those credit hours were less than 10% of the total credit hours offered to students last school year, while Columbus State said CCP credit hours made up closer to 15%, according to the report. Sinclair reported an even higher share of CCP hours than Columbus State compared to total credit hours.

The institution with the highest percentage of CCP hours compared to credit hours was Southern State Community College, with close to 60% of the total credit hours offered allocated to CCP.

The report suggested a marketing opportunity for colleges and universities to get the students who take CCP credits through their institution to finish higher education degrees.

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