The Eastern Iowa Community Colleges and 10 other Iowa community college districts have received national accreditation for their dual enrollment programs.

Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to take classes and earn high school and college credits. About 39,000 Iowa high school students take community college courses each year, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Education.

The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships granted accreditation to the Eastern Iowa district, which includes campuses in the Quad-Cities, Clinton and Muscatine, and 10 other districts throughout the state after an extensive self-study and peer review process, according to the news release.

The other college districts receiving accreditation are Northeast Iowa Community College, North Iowa Area Community College, Northwest Iowa Community College, Iowa Central Community College, Iowa Valley Community College District, Hawkeye Community College, Kirkwood Community College, Western Iowa Tech Community College, Southwestern Community College and Indian Hills Community College.

The accreditation ensures courses and instructors are held to the standards of an on-campus college course and promotes accountability through impact studies, student surveys and course and program evaluations.

“This significant achievement demonstrates the high quality of community college concurrent enrollment programs,” said Roger Utman, administrator of the Iowa Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges. “These colleges are to be commended for their hard work and commitment to meeting national standards.”

The Eastern Iowa district has partnerships with 19 area high schools and has 2,000 high school students enrolled in college classes this semester, according to a news release from the district.

The credits the students earned saved their families $2.6 million in the past fiscal year, according to the news release.

“That’s a tremendous financial benefit for these families,” Eastern Iowa chancellor Don Doucette said. “These students are really getting a step up toward the education and training they will need to be successful once they graduate from high school.”

Linda Noble, a counselor at Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, said students who take advantage of the dual enrollment program not only saves them money and helps them get a head start on earning college credits, it gives them an opportunity to take general education classes before setting foot on a college campus, giving them more flexibility in their college schedule to explore their options for a course of study.

“It gives them some opportunity at the college level to explore other areas if they haven’t decided what area to go into,” Noble said.