Evidence supports dual enrollment as a strategy for equity

October 27, 2019

Career Ladders Project promotes dual enrollment as a strategy for equity — measured by course and degree completion, achievement in high school and college, and other indicators — for subgroups including students of color, low-income students, students from low-income families, male students, and students who are immigrants or the first in their families to attend college.

Dual enrollment means taking college courses while in high school. 

This post provides links to supporting research (note that some sources are cited repeatedly).

Dual enrollment provides clear benefits for all students.  

  1. Dual enrollment is positively related to high school completion and college

readiness, including high school graduation (Melinda M. Karp et al., 2007;* Rodriguez, Hughes, &Belfield, 2012; Cowan & Goldhaber, 2013), and to higher college enrollment (Karp et al., 2007;* Speroni, 2011; Rodriguez, Hughes, & Belfield, 2012; Cowan & Goldhaber, 2013; Struhl & Vargas, 2012).

  1. Dual enrollment gives first-generation students “college knowledge” (Karp, in her 2006 PhD dissertation, not publicly available online).
  2. Former dual enrollment students, once they enroll in college, have higher grade point averages in college  (Allen & Dadgar, 2012; Eimers & Mullen, 2003**).
  3. Former dual enrollment students have higher rates of course completion, or credit accrual, in college (Karp et. al, 2007;* Speroni, 2011; Rodriguez, Hughes, & Belfield, 2012; Cowan & Goldhaber, 2013).
  4. Former dual enrollment students are more likely than peers to complete a college degree (An, 2013; Struhl & Vargas, 2012).

Dual enrollment has been shown to benefit students in several subgroups. For example:

  1. Students in career technical education (CTE) programs benefit from dual enrollment participation (Karp, et al., 2007;* Rodriguez, Hughes, & Belfield, 2012; Struhl & Vargas, 2012). 
  2. Male students may benefit more from participation than other subgroups (Karp et al., 2007*). 
  3. Low-income, first-generation and students with lower grade-point averages benefit from participation, and some studies find that they do so to a larger extent than other student groups (Rodriguez, Hughes, & Belfield, 2012; An, 2013; Struhl & Vargas, 2012). 

A paper of particular interest is “Broadening the Benefits of Dual Enrollment: Reaching Underachieving and Underrepresented Students with Career-Focused Programs,” by Katherine Hughes, Olga Rodriguez, Linsey Edwards, and Clive Belfield. They reported in 2012 that students who participated in dual enrollment, compared with students in the same districts, were on average:

  • More likely to graduate from high school
  • More likely to transition to a four-year college (rather than a two-year college)
  • Less likely to take basic skills courses in college
  • More likely to persist in postsecondary education
  • Accumulating more college credits than comparison students

And Melinda Karp, et al., reported in 2007, in “The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States” (published by Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University), on page 7, that, “In Florida we were able to run analyses for all of the sub-groups. We found that, in many cases, male and low-income students benefited more from dual enrollment participation than their peers. On some measures, students with lower high school grades also benefited to a greater extent than students with higher grade point averages. On some measures, these subgroup differences were true for both the full sample and the CTE subsample; on other measures, the differences were found only for the full sample.”* 

Note that some research supporting the benefits of dual enrollment for certain subgroups (Michalowski, 2007; Kotamraju, 2005) is no longer publicly available. 

* This paper is not available online, but Karp reiterated these findings in a report to state policymakers in Alaska in 2013

** This paper is not available online, but here is a full citation: Eimers, M. T., & Mullen, R. (2003). “Dual credit and Advanced Placement: Do they help prepare students for success in college?” Paper presented at the 43rd Annual Association of Institutional Research Conference, Tampa, FL. 

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