At a time when the need for higher levels of education is rising, we are pleased to report some good news: Participation in career-focused, dual enrollment programs correlates to positive, measurable improvements in outcomes for a population of young people who face serious barriers to gaining a postsecondary degree.
In 2008, we launched the Concurrent Courses initiative to make dual enrollment programs — which allow high school students to earn college credit — available to underachieving students or those who are from populations underrepresented in higher education. When we began, we were already aware of the benefits that dual enrollment holds for the high-achieving students who usually participate in these programs.
A new research report by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, shows how eight programs across California effectively integrated dual enrollment with a complementary career-focused strategy to engage struggling students.
The results, just published in the report titled Broadening the Benefits of Dual Enrollment, are very encouraging. Participants 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
Programs in the initiative varied, allowing CCRC evaluators to glean valuable insights about the essential elements for success:
- Programs require a strong connection and integration between high schools and postsecondary institutions.
- Embedding dual enrollment opportunities within career-focused small learning communities encourages student participation by giving coursework focus and relevance.
- A dual enrollment class should be perceived by students as an authentic college experience where they can “try on” the college student role and view themselves as capable of doing college work.
The report discusses a number of key considerations for effective program design and implementation. These lessons are summarized in a companion brief for education practitioners. Similarly, the report identifies policy proposals that would build on the lessons from the initiative and foster ever stronger outcomes for more students. These proposals are summarized in a separate brief for policymakers.
Our experience with the Concurrent Courses initiative significantly influenced the development of our recently launched expansion of Linked Learning into the California community colleges. And given the promise of dual enrollment, we fully anticipate that it will shape the design of future postsecondary initiatives as well as our program strategy and priorities going forward.
We are heartened to learn that historically perceived barriers to engaging more students in dual enrollment can be overcome, and are pleased to add this insight into a growing body of evidence that dual enrollment can make a difference for youth and communities across California.