Dual Enrollment Boosts Academic Performance, CCRC Report Finds

Does taking college courses while in high school actually boost grades? A new Community College Research Center report sheds some light on the subject, finding that dual-enrolled students are more likely to go to college and perform at a higher level compared to their non dual-enrolled counterparts.

CCRC’s report, titled, “The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment,” finds that dual-enrolled students are more likely to earn a high school diploma, enroll in postsecondary education, and not drop out after their first college semester. This CCRC report also finds that these trends hold true for both general and career and technical education students.

Report co-author Dr. Katherine Hughes says though her research indicated low-income students benefit more from dual enrollment, many of these programs mainly enroll high-achieving students from higher socioeconomic classes, and so data on lower income students is scarce.

“Socioeconomic status has been highly correlated with academic achievement, so one of the issues is that many of these programs across the country have been limiting dual enrollment to the higher achieving students,” Hughes says. “So we haven’t been able to look much at differences among students who are participating because many programs have limited access,” she adds.

In this study, CCRC researchers examined general and CTE student data from two well-established dual enrollment programs in Florida and New York City. Overall, dual-enrolled students performed better academically than their non dual-enrolled peers. Nevertheless, Hughes says these programs can be costly, limiting access.

“In some places, students have to pay themselves — the courses are not free. We strongly believe that the courses should be free, but different states have different situations with regard to who is paying tuition,” Hughes says. “In some states like Michigan, the high school district is expected to contribute some money towards tuition to the college. The high school district might not be very interested in doing that, and might find out ways to discourage students from participating.”

Hughes adds that another barrier to dual enrollment is the concern that underprepared high school students will permanently mar their college transcripts with poor grades. Nevertheless, this report finds that dual-enrolled students had higher postsecondary GPAs one year after high school graduation and earned more college credits than their non dual-enrolled peers.

“We combed through extensive research on this issue and found almost no existing evidence to determine whether dual enrollment contributes to students’ college access or academic success,” says lead researcher Dr. Melinda Mechur Karp. “This report provides rigorous, quantitative data to show the positive outcomes of student participation in dual enrollment programs.”

The Community College Research Center was established in 1996 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and is housed at the Institute on Education and the Economy at Teachers College, Columbia University. For more information and a copy of the full report, visit www.tc.columbia.edu.

–David Pluviose

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