This blog explores some of the Dual Credit options at TSD.  Dual Credit is any course where students can get College Credit and High School Credit in the same course. Virtually all of the students who obtain dual credit do so through four programs, Running Start (RS), College in the High School (CIHS) Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and Career & Technical Education (CTE). Students can earn credit through one, or all, of the aforementioned.  Students can enroll in more than one type of dual credit course. While there may be some scheduling logistics, student can cross over between programs.   

Having had 2 high schoolers who have gone through THS, I also offer some personal insight regarding experiences from our family.

Advanced Placement(AP)—AP classes are run by the College Board and offer college level curricula, with the option to take a year end examination that allows students to earn college credit.

Students can earn anywhere from 3 to 15 hours of credit if they pass the year end test. The credit earned varies depending on the score, the course and the college(I will use college and university interchangeably within this blog).  Here is a link to the equivalency chart for the University of Washington showing the credit that can be earned. https://admit.washington.edu/apply/transfer/exams-for-credit/ap/

Students generally pay about $90 per class to take the year end test. The class is taught by a high school teacher who has been certified to teach AP classes.  About twice as many students take AP classes as enroll in RS.   

Students are not required to take the AP test, and earn high school credit just like other classes even if they do not take the AP test.  Students can also take the AP test without actually taking the class.

The AP Test is administered by a National Board(like the ACT and SAT).    The cost to the school for AP courses is very minimal, and all the state funding remains at the school. 

Here is a good link with some pros/cons about taking AP classes.  https://www.collegeraptor.com/getting-in/articles/college-applications/pros-cons-taking-ap-classes-high-school/

Running Start—RS was started in the early 1990s and is fully funded by the State of Washington. This program allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college and attend classes on campus(or online) at the college.  RS courses are not on the high school campus. The RS students go to the college campus with the general college population. Most TSD students who utilize the Running Start option attend South Puget Sound Community College(SPSCC). Here is a link to the SPSCC Running Start page.https://spscc.edu/runningstart

Students can attend full time or part time.  If a student attends full time, he or she is not required to attend any high school classes.  Part time RS students are required to attend high school so that they have the equivalent of a full time course load. 

Here are the most recent enrollment stats for the Running Start program.

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RS students do not have to pay any tuition (the State picks up the tab), but do have to pay for their books and any class fees (Usually a few hundred dollars a quarter).

Notably, RS students are treated like college students. Once enrolled, the high schools really have no way to track the students.  Privacy laws (FERPA) restrict information that can be provided to high schools and parents.  Generally, the high school simply gets a report back from the college as to what grades the student obtained that quarter.  Also, based on the FERPA laws, once a student attends a school beyond the high school level, the parents no longer have access to the student’s records.

RS students earn high school credit for college classes.  In fact, one quarter of a five credit hour class at SPSCC is usually the equivalent of one year at the high school.  As an example, English 101 at SPSCC(a 12 week course) is the equivalent of a full year of 11th grade English.  Many students are able to obtain an Associates Degree in the RS program.

Virtually all of the State funding follows the student, so the state allocation for full time RS students goes to the college.  The funds for part time students are prorated between the high school and the college.       

Here are some stats from the SPSCC website promoting the Running Start program.

College in the High School—This program is a partnership between high schools and colleges where college level classes are taught in the high schools.  Unlike AP(where the curricula comes from the College Board), the curricula comes from whatever college with which the high school has partnered.  The colleges TSD schools have partnered with in the past include SPSCC, University of Washington, and Eastern Washington. 

Students who elect this option pay a fee charged by the college. The fee is anywhere between $90 and about $325 per class, and is set by the college.  TSD does not pay any additional costs to the college.  The class is taught by a high school teacher employed with TSD.  Teachers who teach CIHS classes are certified by the college, and teach the college curriculum. 

In speaking with administrators, there appears to be a deliberate effort to expand the CIHS programs.   The logic is that students can take college level classes without having to leave the high school campus, and therefore benefit from the resources at the high school, and remain with their peers for the high school experience.  Further, the state funding allocation remains at the high schools and there are no costs in addition to those incurred with other students. 

Students can take as many, or as few, CIHS classes offered as they desire, with the balance of the student’s schedule being filed by other high school classes.  While students cannot earn an associates degree, CIHS offers the opportunity to earn some college credit(usually 5 quarter credits per course) prior to graduating. 

One of our daughters earned 10 credit hours through Eastern Washington University in a CIHS pre-calculus class and the cost was about $700.  The cost is dependent on the agreement with the colleges. My understanding is that BHHS and THS have both worked out agreements with colleges that have reduced the costs significantly, some as low as $90 per class. 

Career & Technical Education- CTE classes integrate dual credit academics with technical skill development to help prepare students for advanced education and careers related to “professional-technical” occupations. The CTE classes are designed to teach an applicable skill, trade or vocation, with less emphasis on traditional academic learning.   The CTE Dual Credit program helps students transition from high school into postsecondary professional technical programs.   Much like CIHS classes, dual CTE classes are taught at the TSD schools.  There are usually nominal fees paid by the student, and no extra cost to TSD.   Not all CTE courses are dual credit courses. Taking a CTE course is also now a graduation requirement.

High schools and colleges enter in to consortium agreements that ensure courses taken lead to, prepare students for, and some courses can lead to credit for college courses. These courses fall within a career pathway and can move a student towards completion of a certificate or degree in that field.

One of our daughters picked up 12 hours of CTE credit by taking a Microsoft Office class offered at THS through SPSCC when she was a freshman.


Overall, about 39% of students are enrolled in a Dual Credit program at any given time.

The following two charts show the percentage of students enrolled in at least one dual credit program for each of the past 5 years.

While enrollment was much greater in 2015 at THS, and 2015 & 2016 at BHHS, it appears enrollment over the last three years has been pretty stable. 

Some programs are even offered to Freshman(most often CTE). The below charts show the percentage of students at BHHS and THS enrolled in at least one dual credit program.


I do not pretend to have a complete answer, but can offer some personal experience.  From what I can tell, if a student obtains an Associates degree, most colleges in Washington, and many colleges in the region, accept the credits pretty much “as is.”  There certainly are exceptions as I have heard many stories about credits not transferring. 

If a student does not obtain an Associates degree, colleges just gauge the course and credit (in each of the Dual Credit programs) similar to any request by a transfer student.

Our oldest daughter(class of 2017) obtained her Associates degree and her credits transferred pretty much without exception to an out of state public institution. 

Our second daughter(class of 2020) is on track to get her Associates Degree.  During her application process, some of the schools(UW, BYU, Vanderbilt, Stanford) indicated to us that AP classes are more impressive than Running Start or CIHS classes.  They each made clear that RS and CIHS was not a disqualifier by any means, and the dual credit was just a small piece of the puzzle in any application, but AP is preferred between the three options. 

This makes sense as national studies show students who successfully complete AP classes, when compared with students who obtain dual credit through other means, are more likely to have academic success in college. This is obviously a generalization based upon a compilation of individual cases, any of which may be the exception to the general rule.


Lots of reasons, there is no universal answer. 

Dual credit, especially Running Start, is very attractive economically.   Students can essentially get their first 2 years of college paid for and walk out of high school with an Associates Degree.  I know several 20 year old Running Start alums who are walking around with Bachelor’s degrees.

On the other side, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the high schools to track students at SPSCC, and make sure that students are having success and are on track to graduate.    

Dual credit, especially AP and CIHS offer a more academically challenging environment than general education classes.  AP classes are rigorous, often more rigorous than RS and CIHS classes.  I think it is pretty much accepted that the AP curricula is the most challenging of the options.  Of course, success in a challenging curriculum is more likely to lead to better opportunities, especially regarding college preparedness.  

As always, we welcome any feedback.