Dual/Concurrent Enrollment: Research and Policy
Concurrent enrollment programs are now a major component of rigorous high school curricula, coast to coast. Below you will find URLs and citations leading to major reports, published articles, and dissertations that explore the value and strengths of dual/concurrent enrollment as well as the local and national challenges it faces.
Thanks are due to the staff at College in the Schools at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities for their assistance in locating and summarizing many of the studies and reports included in this list.
Important Note: Many studies and organizations refer to dual enrollment or dual credit and use these terms to include students taking college courses in their high school, taught by high school instructors or college faculty, as well as high school students taking college courses on the college campus.
Dual Credit in Oregon, 2010 Follow-up: An Analysis of Students Taking Dual Credit in High School in 2007-08
(2010. Office of Institutional Research, Oregon University System)
Researchers at the Oregon University System (OUS) specifically examined college courses taught in a high school, by a high school teacher that carry both high school and college credit – courses that NACEP defines as concurrent enrollment. The study examined the college participation and performance of 15,707 students attending an Oregon college or university whose college transcripts recorded their having taken a dual credit course while in high school. The researchers found that:
- “Dual credit students have a higher college participation rate than high school graduates overall.”
- “Dual credit students who go on to college continue to the second year at a higher rate than freshmen who enter college without having earned dual credit.”
- “Among freshmen who continue to the second year of college, dual credit participants earn a higher first year GPA.”
- “Students who continue to the second year of college accumulate more college credit if they take dual credit in high school.”
For the results on persistence to the second year of college, the authors controlled for academic strength (as measured by GPA, SAT scores, and receiving Advanced Placement credit) and student demographics, finding that “the odds that dual credit students would be predicted to persist to the second year of college are increased by 17% compared to students who did not take dual credit.”
The study also examined student performance in subsequent courses in an sequence in writing, mathematics, and Spanish:
- “When dual credit students who take the prerequisite in high school and the final course in college are compared to their college classmates who take the entire sequence in college, it turns out that they pass the final course in proportions that are substantially equivalent to those of their college-prepared classmates”
Our Courses Your Classroom®: Research on Syracuse University Courses Taught in High School
A retrospective of research on Syracuse University’s concurrent enrollment program Project Advance. The editors have selected studies from three decades of research to provide a reference for administrators, students, and faculty who are interested in developing and/or evaluating their own concurrent enrollment programs. Available for purchase online at Lulu.com.
An Analysis of the Impact of High School Dual Enrollment Course Participation on Post-secondary Academic Success, Persistence and Degree Completion
(2008. Dr. Joni Swanson, University of Iowa, College of Education)
This study, comparing the high school and college transcripts of more than 400 students who participated in dual enrollment courses (but not in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses) with the transcripts of students with similar GPA’s and class rank, but who took no accelerated learning courses, showed that:
- “Dual enrollment students were 11% more likely to persist through the second year of college than non-participating students.”
- “Dual enrollment students were 12% more likely to enter college within seven months of high school graduation than non-participating students.”
- “Dual enrollment students who completed 20 or more credits in the first year of college were 28% more likely to persist through the second year in college than were students who did not complete dual enrollment courses.”
The data also suggests that dual enrollment “fosters more positive attitudes towards earning post-secondary degrees in students who did not previously hold these attitudes.”
The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States
(2007. Columbia University, Community College Research Center)
In this comprehensive study researchers from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University examined the records of more than 300,000 dual enrollment students in Florida and New York. They found that students who took dual enrollment courses in high school were more likely to
- Graduate from high school,
- Enroll in college,
- Start college in a 4-year institution,
- Enroll in college fulltime and
- Stay in college at least two years.
Three years after high school graduation, students who had participated in dual enrollment courses in high school had earned higher college GPAs and more postsecondary credits than their peers.
The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School through College (2006. U.S. Department of Education)
A companion study to a previous U.S. Department of Education study, Answers in the Toolbox, published in 1999 (see below). Both national longitudinal studies reach similar conclusions: “The academic intensity of the student’s high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor’s degree” (p. xviii).
“Less than 20 credits by the end of the first calendar year of enrollment … is a serious drag on degree completion. The original Tool Box told the same story. It is all the more reason to begin the transition process in high school with expanded dual enrollment programs offering true postsecondary course work so that students enter higher education with a minimum of 6 additive credits to help them cross that 20-credit line. Six is good, 9 is better, and 12 is a guarantee of momentum” (p. xx).
Dual Credit and Exam-Based Courses in U.S. Public High Schools: 2002-2003
(2005. US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics)
Baseline data about the scope and characteristics of dual enrollment and exam-based courses in the US. Authors estimate that 72% of public high schools in the U.S. offered dual credit courses in the 2002-2003 school year, 67% offered AP courses, and 3% offered IB courses (p. 5) Report also states that in 2002-03 “there were an estimated 1.2 million enrollments in courses for dual credit, 1.8 million enrollments in AP courses, and 165,000 enrollments in IB courses” (p. 4).
Dual Enrollment of High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2002-2003. (2005.U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics)
Designed to provide baseline data about participation in dual-enrollment programs, this report estimates that 680,000 high school students took college courses through dual-enrollment programs during the 2002-03 school year (p. 7). Report also notes that 64 percent of institutions with dual enrollment programs reported that parents and students were a source for tuition for courses taken as part of the programs. . . . 37 percent said that high schools and public school districts were a source. . . .” (p. 13-14).
Answers in the Toolbox: Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelor’s Degree Attainment (1999. U.S. Department of Education)
Identification of factors contributing to bachelor’s degree completion. A rigorous high school curriculum is identified as the most important factor influencing college degree completion. Rigorous curriculum was found to be more important than socio-economic status (p. 84-86).
Accelerated Learning Options: Moving the Needle on Access and Success
(2006. Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education)
Focused on existing state and institutional policies and practices associated with four accelerated learning programs-Advanced Placement (AP), dual/concurrent enrollment, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program, and Tech-Prep-this report notes that:
- “All states report offering AP, and only six of the 50 states indicated that they did not make special efforts to reach underserved students with AP” (p. 32).
- “All states report offering dual credit/dual enrollment, but only slightly more than half (29 states) have special efforts to reach underserved students with this option” (Page 33). (Editor’s note: Federal funds have been available to schools for increasing participation of students of color in AP classes, but not in concurrent enrollment classes.)
- “Students can be confident that some AP and dual/ concurrent courses will be accepted as required credit by a great majority of institutions in both the public and private higher education sectors. It is also common for postsecondary institutions to accept AP and dual/concurrent courses for elective credit” (p. 35).
Enriching the High School Curriculum Through Postsecondary Credit-Based Transition Programs
(2006. University of Indiana, Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, Volume 4, No 2)
Description of trends in accelerated learning programs nationally with highlights of Indiana programs. Among its recommendations for dual enrollment is the following: “Promote expansion of dual credit programs in the state. Dual credit programs are growing nationwide, thereby increasing high school students’ options for earning college credits. This growth should be encouraged and access to these programs by all qualified students should be facilitated by state policy” (p. 9).
Postcards from the Margin: A National Dialogue on Accelerating Learning
(2006. Jobs for the Future and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education)
A summary of issues surrounding accelerated learning, including the purpose, financing, quality, and documentation of outcomes of accelerated learning. Outlining a national agenda for further understanding and strengthening accelerated learning programs, the authors recommend that accrediting bodies such as NACEP take the lead in developing and promoting “a cohesive set of regionally and nationally recognized quality assurance standards for all accelerated learning options” (p. 9).
Dual Enrollment: Policy Issues Confronting State Policymakers
(2006. Education Commission of the States)
Summary of the growth, benefits, controversies, and impacts of dual enrollment. The author concludes: “Dual enrollment programs, while still in relative infancy, are a key strategy for increasing postsecondary participation in the states and policymakers should implement them with care. Academic rigor, access and affordability are the keys to success when it comes to dual enrollment” (p. 6).
The College Ladder: Linking Secondary and Postsecondary Education for Success for All Students
(2006. American Youth Policy Forum)
”[T]he result of a two-year effort to identify, summarize, and analyze schools, programs, and policies that link secondary and postsecondary education to help students earn college credit or take college-level courses, ” this report emphasizes the need to collect more data. The authors recognize the value of accelerated learning options: “Arrangements that allow high school students to participate in college classes come in many forms and designs, including dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Tech Prep, and middle and early college high schools. They share important common elements of strong academics keyed to postsecondary standards, increased student engagement through interesting classes and/or attendance on a college campus, and exposure to adult expectations and milieu, and often are accompanied with supports to ensure student success. From our perspective, these programs are high value programs, because they provide many of the important elements that have been missing from high school for most students: challenge, engagement, access to the adult world, and support” [p. vii].
The Progress of Education Reform 2005: Dual Enrollment
(2005. The Progress of Education Reform, vol. 6, no. 3, Education Commission of the States)
A review of existing research about dual enrollment, an overview of state dual-enrollment policies, and their effect on dual enrollment programs.
State Dual Enrollment Policies: Addressing Access and Quality
(2004, with update in 2005. Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education)
An in-depth look at the scope, structure and regulation of dual enrollment programs across the nation. Authors state that they were “continually struck by the difficult balancing act states must engage in. There is a strong desire to promote access to dual enrollment for a broad range of students. Yet, there is also a need to maintain academic standards and ensure that only students ready for college-level work participate in college courses. To some extent, these two goals conflict.” The authors also conclude that “funding streams that provide only the minimum support for dual enrollment may inadvertently prevent programs from providing services such as counseling that can promote student success” (pp. 30 – 32).
Add and Subtract: Dual Enrollment as a State Strategy to Increase Postsecondary Success for Underrepresented Students (2005. Jobs for the Future)
This “policy primer” includes an overview of dual enrollment and funding models for states that want to offer dual enrollment to a wider range of students. Authors state that “dual enrollment…is a promising “next best thing” for states wishing to increase the number of underrepresented students gaining a postsecondary credential. Dual enrollment also has the potential to save money for families and taxpayers and shorten time to degree. To make dual enrollment a centerpiece of a strategy to improve college access and success, however, requires shifts in typicaldual enrollment policy and legislation and a new way of thinking about its mission. By ‘adding’ supports at the front end-in eleventh and twelfth grades-in order to enable young people to succeed in college-level courses in high school, states can potentially ‘subtract’ from the total expense of educating a young person” (Executive Summary).
Promoting College Access and Success: A Review of Credit-based Transitions Programs
(2003. Accelerating Student Success Project, Office of Vocational and Adult Education in partnership with the Community College Research Center)
The authors of this report “reviewed 45 published and unpublished reports, articles, and books on the most common credit-based transition programs-dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Tech Prep, and middle college high schools (MCHS)-to examine the programs and their characteristics, and to review what is known about their ability to increase college access and success for a wide range of students” (vii). The authors conclude that “studies offer evidence for continued support of such transition programs, but also draw attention to the need for more comprehensive and reliable information on program and student characteristics, as well as for sound research” (xi).
Claiming Common Ground: State Policymaking for Improving College Readiness and Success
(2006. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education)
Four key areas are identified in which state policies can improve students’ college readiness and completion: alignment of coursework and assessments, state finance, statewide data systems, and accountability. Report observes that “[g]aining admission to college is not the most daunting challenge facing high school graduates-although many students think that it is and most college preparation efforts focus on admissions. The more difficult challenge for students is becoming prepared academically for college coursework. Once students enter college, about half of them learn that they are not prepared for college-level courses” (p. 2).
Measuring Up 2006: The National Report Card on Higher Education
(2006. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education)
The national report card compares “the performance of each state along critical dimensions of college opportunity and effectiveness.”
Transforming Higher Education: National Imperative – State Responsibility (2006. National Conference of State Legislatures’ Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education)
Report urges state legislative bodies to take the lead in higher education reform and concludes with 15 recommendations, including the following: “Transform the 12th grade: Dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment and early college programs can all help prepare students for college and finish faster.”
Betraying the College Dream: How Disconnected K-12 and Postsecondary Education Systems Undermine Student Aspirations
(2003. Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research)
The final report of the Bridge Project, a research project begun in 1997 to identify the barriers that limit access and success in college. Among key recommendations is the following: “Expanding successful dual or concurrent enrollment programs between high schools and colleges so that they include all students, not just traditionally ‘college-bound’ students” (p. 03).
(2004. Citizens League Report on Higher Education in Minnesota)
Among the recommendations: “Make better use of time spent in high school and ensure that all students are ready for higher education. This includes … improved access to higher education opportunities, e.g. advanced placement and post-secondary education options, for students who are ready, and greater remediation and access for students who are not yet prepared for higher education” (p. 3).
High School Reform to Lifelong Learning: Aligning Secondary and Postsecondary Education
(3/5/2007. National Governors Association)
This recent policy position from the National Governors Association encourages federal policies that “encourage-not discourage-promising state efforts in dual enrollment programs that permit students to obtain high quality college-level credits or provide the opportunity to earn an industry-recognized credential while still in secondary school. Specifically, Congress should encourage and support state dual enrollment or early college programs that provide accelerated educational opportunities and allow students to obtain both high school diplomas and significant college credit. Congress also should allow high school students participating in these programs to be eligible for federal financial aid.” (p. 3).
The ACT National Curriculum Survey polled thousands of teachers at the middle school, high school, and post-secondary levels to identify the differences “between postsecondary expectations and high school practice” (Policy Implications Report, p. 1). Researchers found that high schools focus on breadth of content, while colleges expect students to have a deeper understanding, but of fewer topics. For example, high school teachers focus on “science content”; postsecondary instructors indicate that incoming freshmen need to understand “process and inquiry skills in science” (Policy Implications Report, p. 6). According to the report, high school teachers generally believe that state standards prepare students for college; college instructors believe that standards “do a poor or very poor job of preparing students for postsecondary work” (Policy Implications Report, p. 8). ACT postulates that the difference in focus is possibly the result of states adopting standards in too many areas to be taught and measured effectively in a single school year. Among the recommendations, ACT suggests that states target their standards to the “essential knowledge and skills in each content area” (Policy Implications Report, p. 3).
Policy Implications Report
Full Survey Report
Report on Key Policies and Practices of Higher Performing High Schools
(2006. National High School Center, US Department of Education)
Focused on successful high schools that have set high standards for all students, this report provides state leaders with suggestions on how to support accelerated learning initiatives.
Tough Choices or Tough Times
(2006. The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, National Center on Education and the Economy)
Calling for an overhaul of the K-12 system, this report proposes a system in which students take “state board qualifying exams” to determine their opportunities for entry into higher education. Anyone at anytime would be able to retake board exams. Teacher pay would be based on performance, not seniority, and teachers would actively be recruited from among the top third of high school graduates.
Redesigning the American High School–Getting It Done: 10 Steps to a State Action Agenda
(2005. National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices)
“Getting It Done” identifies steps governors can take to jump-start high school reform. Several steps include strategies for expanding dual enrollment.
Advancing High School Reform in the States
(2005. National Association of Secondary School Principals)
This association encourages states to develop policies “that are targeted at increasing the rigor of the [high school] curriculum including establishing a core curriculum that is aligned with college admission standards, developing an accelerated high school curriculum, and concurrently providing incentives or financial support for students to take more rigorous courses or accelerated learning opportunities through the AP program, the International Baccalaureate program, or dual enrollment”(p. 5).