The Power of Dual Enrollment: The Equitable Expansion of College Access and Success
By: Luke Rhine, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Vocational, Technical and Adult Education
Dual registration works. The Biden-Harris administration is deeply committed to utilizing and expanding high-quality dual enrollment programs to improve student access to rigorous coursework and equitable post-secondary opportunities. Recently, the Department of Education hosted a webinar featuring a panel of dual enrollment experts who reviewed the current state of policy, practice and research as well as the future of dual enrollment . The session also included a summary of the latest research and evidence on dual enrollment, taken from the recent College in High School Alliance publication, Research Priorities to Advance Fair Dual Enrollment Policy and Practice. Here’s what experts in the field are saying:
What is dual registration? Dual enrollment (DE) is one of many terms used to describe a program that allows high school students to take a college course and earn both high school and college credits. But access to college-level courses in high school isn’t just about college credit. DE can also give students a boost to learn and prepare for careers.
Why double registration? Dual enrollment is an evidence-based practice that can play an important role in improving student outcomes. It can also be a way for students to save time and money and for them to develop an academic identity with confidence in their ability to enroll and succeed in higher education.
What does the research say? On average, dual registration has a positive impact on academics, high school graduation rates, college enrollment, college success, and college completion rates. To research on a New York City dual-enrollment program found that it improved post-secondary success, reduced the time it took to graduate, and increased student academic achievement.
Why now? In the wake of the pandemic, post-secondary enrollment is declining at a time when the need for post-secondary credentials is increasing. A high school diploma alone is no longer a ticket to a good job. Experts predict that 70% of jobs will soon require some level of post-secondary education and training.
Dual schooling is widespread and growing, but uneven. Dual enrollment is a common practice in most American high schools. Approximately 88% of high schools offer dual enrollment and 34% of US students take college courses in high school. Although national data is limited, the growth of DE programs at the state level has been dramatic. For example, in Indiana39% of high school students earned DE credits in 2012, rising to 60% in 2018.
When done well, the impact of DE improves academic and post-secondary outcomes. Recent to research on North Carolina’s CTE Dual Enrollment Program found that students were more likely to graduate from high school (more than 2 percentage points higher) and more likely to enroll in college ( more than 9 percentage points higher) than their peers. These positive impacts have been particularly strong for student groups that are underrepresented in post-secondary education, including students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.
Unfortunately, this valuable success strategy is often underutilized for historically marginalized learners. Dual enrollment is often less accessible in schools that serve larger proportions of low-income communities and communities of color. Even when available, students from those same communities participate at lower rates. If attention is not given to developing equitable DE policies at the local and state level, outcomes for marginalized groups will continue to follow this pattern.
Jason Taylor, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Utah, shared it best: “There are 50 different state policies for dual enrollment and those policies shape how dual programs work. inscription, sometimes in a very standardized or non-standardized way.” In sum, dual inscription comes in many shapes and sizes. For the research community, policymakers, and practitioners, it is our duty to close the equity gaps in dual enrollment, so that all students can benefit from the power of dual enrollment.
As Amanda Ellis, vice president of P-20 policy and programs at the Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education, has shared, in places like Kentucky where equity is a priority, “students with low income, first-generation, and underrepresented minorities excel, succeed, and persist at a higher rate when engaging in dual credit. It is our collective role to enhance these successes and support state policies that enable the careful implementation of dual enrollment and as a tool to address systemic inequalities.
Key state strategies to unlock the potential of ED:
- Set a public goal for student participation and achievement, with a focus on equitable subgroup engagement
- Support quality, oversight, and cross-sector collaboration, which includes student voice
- Design funding mechanisms that remove financial barriers for students
- Continue to examine the effectiveness of policies to address dual enrollment equity gaps
- Identify ways to use ED to expand academic and career-oriented courses, helping to connect academic and professional experiences and counseling
Amy Williams, Executive Director of the National Simultaneous Listing Partnership Alliance, concluded the webinar by outlining what dual listing should look like in the future. “By focusing on program alignment, program refinement, and innovation, I think it allows us to do things like implement equity-focused best practices to design programs that really do progress students with some alignment and some predictability. That would be my ideal 10-year plan.
The Department is committed to strengthening and expanding dual enrollment because we know it is a strategy that transforms lives and ultimately improves outcomes for our nation’s workforce. and our communities. Dual enrollment is one of the four central student-centered pillars of our Pathways initiative. We envision reinventing high school and expanding pathways to success, including in general education courses and in career-related courses. Other pillars of the Pathways initiative are workplace learning, industry-requested credentials, and career and academic navigation supports.
At the Department, we believe that the upheavals and crises the pandemic has brought about now present us with an urgent opportunity to transform the way our youth transition from high school to university and into rewarding careers through inclusive and to deliberate alignment in secondary and post-secondary education. , and the work. The work we do today to create more equitable dual enrollment career paths will lead our students to a bright future.
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