Research and Questions about Dual Enrollment

Last week the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), in partnership with the National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR), hosted a Capitol Hill briefing on dual enrollment, a strategy in which high school students take college courses. The event, Dual Enrollment: A Strategy for Improving College Readiness and Success for All Students, featured two reports about dual enrollment released by NCPR. Presenters spoke about the findings of the reports, national and state trends in dual enrollment, and key questions for future research. You can learn highlights from the reports by reading our guest blog post, What We’ve Learned About Dual Enrollment.

At the event, presenters made the case that in order to develop a successful dual enrollment program, staff at all levels must communicate and collaborate. According to Julie Alexander, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs in the Florida Department of Education, the increase of participation in dual enrollment requires the state, colleges, and districts to work together to share resources. Chad Aldeman, a Policy Advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development from the U.S. Department of Education, said that barriers need to be broken between high schools and postsecondary institutions so that data about how students from individual high schools are performing in college is shared with the high schools. Katherine Hughes, the Assistant Director for Work and Education Reform Research at NCPR, suggested that instituting a dual enrollment program could be a catalyst to spark conversations between high school and college staff about whether high school seniors are really ready for college and how well the high school curriculum aligns with the needs of college. 

All presenters agreed that more data is needed to assess the impact of dual enrollment on high school students. Cecilia Speroni, a researcher from NCPR, identified the need for a randomized experiment to determine the effect of course location on the impact of dual enrollment programs. Chad Aldeman noted that a study is needed in order to identify the barriers that are keeping states from scaling up their dual enrollment programs.

The event demonstrated that more research is also needed to determine which students are the best candidates for dual enrollment programs, and to understand the effects of dual enrollment on students at various levels of academic proficiency and engagement. Julie Alexander reported that Florida requires that students have a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) or higher to participate in a dual enrollment program, and argued that this eligibility requirement was necessary to ensure that students in the program will be successful. Katherine Hughes disagreed, and noted that most states leave eligibility requirements up to their schools and colleges so that blanket restrictions do not keep dedicated students from participating. California, for instance, purposely targets at risk students by enrolling students who would not normally enroll.

For more information on the new studies and the event, check out AYPF’s Forum Brief webpage.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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