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Dual Enrollment Research

Dual enrollment has grown dramatically in Minnesota and nationwide. Policies and research have not always kept up with this increasingly common practice, but critical questions are clear:

  • What student outcomes result from participation in dual enrollment?
  • How do these outcomes compare to outcomes achieved in other accelerated learning options such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate?
  • How is dual enrollment funded?
  • What are the demographics of dual enrollment students?
  • Does dual enrollment help close the achievement gap?
  • What is the affect of dual enrollment on teachers, high schools, and postsecondary institutions?

Below is a brief annotated list of significant and current research and data.  A more comprehensive listing of research covering dual enrollment, accelerated learning, and high school reform is available through the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

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)
This study is significant because of its size—researchers examined the college participation and performance of more than 15,000 students—and because researchers focused on concurrent enrollment courses rather than other models of dual credit.  The researchers found that students who participate in concurrent enrollment are more likely to go to college, more likely to continue into a second year of college, and more likely to accumulate more college credit by the end of their second year in college.  They also found that dual credit students taking the first course in a series in the high school are as well-prepared for subsequent college work as students who take both courses in the sequence on the college campus.

Accelerated Learning Options: Moving the Needle on Access and Success
The study compares four accelerated learning options (AP, IB, Tech Prep, and dual enrollment) across several criteria. Data was drawn from a 50-state survey of public and private colleges and universities and analysis of state policies.  The data show that colleges and universities nationwide accept dual enrollment credits at almost the same rate as they accept AP scores.  The report also indicated that colleges and universities are much less likely to recognize IB certificates or diplomas.

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)
The author, who was awarded a 2009 award from the National Alliance of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) for this dissertation, documents the importance of the momentum that dual enrollment students gain by entering college already having earned credits.  Dual enrollment students are more likely to enter college within seven months of high school graduation and to persist through their second year of college.  The data also suggest that dual enrollment can improve student attitudes toward attending college.

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 U.S. Authors estimate that 72 percent of public high schools in the U.S. offered dual credit courses in the 2002-2003 school year, 67 percent offered AP courses, and 3 percent offered IB courses and that there were 1.2 million enrollments in dual enrollment courses, 1.8 million enrollments in AP courses, and 165,000 enrollments in IB courses.

Dual Enrollment of High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2002-2003
(2005. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics)
Baseline data about participation in dual enrollment programs.  Authors estimate 680,000 high school students took college courses through dual-enrollment programs during the 2002-03 school year.

High School Reform to Lifelong Learning: Aligning Secondary and Postsecondary Education
(3/5/2007. National Governors Association)
Recent National Governors Association policy position encourages Congress to support state dual enrollment or early college programs and make federal financial aid available to high school students in these programs.

On Ramp to College : A State Policymaker's Guide to Dual Enrollment
(2008. Jobs for the Future)
Authors provide guiding principles in the areas of student eligibility and access, quality, academic, and social supports for at-risk students, funding, data systems, governance, and accountability. Examples of state implementation show how these principles work in practice.  Also includes a state self-assessment.

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 Columbia University 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 four-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)
This national longitudinal study found that students who were not able to complete at least 20 college credits by the end of their first year were less likely to graduate from college.  The author recommends expanding accelerated learning options that offer true post-secondary course work so that students enter higher education with a minimum of six college credits already earned.


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