Data show inequity in who takes dual enrollment classes
- Black and Hispanic students, as well as those whose parents only completed high school or dropped out, are less likely to participate in dual enrollment classes, according to a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) that followed students who were ninth-graders in 2009.
- The study, which last surveyed the students in 2016, found that 38% of white and Asian students took college-level courses while in high school, compared to 30% of Hispanic and 27% of black students. In addition, 42% of high school students whose parents earned a bachelor's degree took a course for postsecondary credit while 33% of those whose parents earned only a high school diploma did the same.
- About 80% of the dual-enrollment courses were administered at the students' own high school while between 11% and 26% were held at colleges, with the higher rates occurring in urban settings. In rural areas, 12% of dual-credit classes were taken online.
Advocates point to research that shows getting high school credit for college-level courses can improve high school grades and completion rates as well as make it more likely students will enroll in college and get a diploma efficiently.
In September, three prominent foundations awarded a $1.2 million grant to the national College in High School Alliance, which represents 62 national and state organizations supporting the concept. The alliance plans to use the funds to develop "policy tools to propel the college in high school field into a major education reform movement," focusing on serving low-income students.
Other research, however, suggests dual enrollment programs aren't reaching marginalized groups. Other concerns include when college-level courses are taught by high school teachers and confusion once a student gets to college about whether and how those credits count.
In August, The Hechinger Report published a detailed review of the trend, noting that while dual enrollment offers benefits, critics have discovered loopholes, including a case where high school students in Ohio were getting college credit for physical education classes. The broad guidelines for such courses were then tightened by state legislators.
The article highlighted other concerns, including that programs might water down college coursework while diluting the value of high school education; be taught by unqualified instructors due to strong demand for dual-credit classes; and mostly serve students who have strong academic skills rather than those who need more support on the path to college.
- National Center for Education Statistics Dual Enrollment: Participation and Characteristics