Research on Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Student Outcomes

Research / Student Outcomes /

Below you will find links and summaries of major reports and studies on dual and concurrent enrollment. Included are a few of the growing number of rigorous, quantitative, large-scale studies on the academic outcomes achieved by students who took college courses while in high school. Most of these studies include concurrent enrollment as well as other forms of dual enrollment, including on courses taken on a college campus, via distance education, and/or taught by college faculty in the high school.

National and Regional Studies

What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report: A summary of findings from a systematic review of the evidence: Dual Enrollment Programs (2017, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education)

This review of the experimental and quasi-experimental literature by the Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) examines student outcomes associated with participating in dual enrollment. The summary report found a medium-to-large evidence base that shows positive benefits of dual enrollment on college degree attainment, college access and enrollment, college credit accumulation, completing high school, and general academic achievement in high school.

Characteristics and postsecondary pathways of students who participate in acceleration programs in Minnesota

(IES What’s Happening Report, February 2017. Elisabeth Davis, Cameron Smither, Bo Whu, Jennifer Stephan, American Institutes for Research in collaboration with the Midwest College and Career Success Research Alliance)

Forty-eight percent of 2011 Minnesota high school graduates participated in at least one acceleration program such as Advanced Placement, dual enrollment or International Baccalaureate courses. About half the participants in acceleration program who enrolled in a Minnesota college within two years of high school graduation were awarded at least one dual credit at the college level. Eighty percent of the participants in acceleration programs who were awarded dual credit received it from a selective or a very selective four-year college. Racial/ethnic minority students and students eligible for the federal school lunch program participated in acceleration programs and were awarded dual credit by the college in which they enrolled at lower rates than their peers. Participation in acceleration programs was associated with higher rates of enrollment in Minnesota colleges, regardless of the number of credits awarded by colleges, participation was also associated with college readiness and persistence.

The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit? (2013. Brian P. An, University of Iowa)

This peer-reviewed study utilized a quasi-experimental research design known as propensity score matching to compare students who took dual enrollment with those who did not, accounting for student demographic characteristics and prior academic performance. Using a nationally representative sample of students who began postsecondary education in 2003, the study showed that students who took dual enrollment courses were 10% more likely to complete a Bachelor’s degree than the comparison group. The benefits were even greater (12%) for students whose parents never attended college. Additional analysis using an older dataset (students who graduated high school in 1992) found similar results overall and for parental education variables, and also documented that benefits were greater for students who earned 6 college credits through dual enrollment (12% compared to all students, 19% compared to students who took neither Advanced Placement nor dual enrollment).

An Analysis of the Impact of High School Dual Enrollment Course Participation on Post-secondary Academic Success, Persistence and Degree Completion (2008. Dr. Joni Swanson, University of Iowa, College of Education)

This study, comparing the high school and college transcripts of more than 400 students who participated in dual enrollment courses (but not in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses) with the transcripts of students with similar GPA’s and class rank, but who took no accelerated learning courses, showed that:

  • “Dual enrollment students were 11% more likely to persist through the second year of college than non-participating students.”
  • “Dual enrollment students were 12% more likely to enter college within seven months of high school graduation than non-participating students.”
  • “Dual enrollment students who completed 20 or more credits in the first year of college were 28% more likely to persist through the second year in college than were students who did not complete dual enrollment courses.”

The data also suggests that dual enrollment “fosters more positive attitudes towards earning post-secondary degrees in students who did not previously hold these attitudes.” Full report

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2007 Cohort(2013. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center calculated six-year college completions rates using enrollment records of nearly every first-time degree seeking college student who enrolled in a United States college or university Fall 2007. While it does not statistically control for the types of students who take dual enrollment, nonetheless it documented that 16% of all students had taken dual enrollment courses in high school. The college “completion rate for dual enrollment students was 66 percent compared to 54 percent for students with no prior dual enrollment experience.”

New Measures, New Perspectives: Graduates’ Time- and Credits-to-Degree in SREB States (2011. Southern Regional Education Board)

While this study did not incorporate statistical controls, it looked at time-to-degree figures across all public institutions in the 10 state southern region. It found that students who took dual enrollment showed large decreases in the time needed to complete both associates and bachelor’s degrees:

  • The 2008-09 graduates of two-year colleges who were first-time-in-college at the colleges from which they graduated and had not attempted college credits in high school spent significantly longer earning associate’s degrees than those who did attempt college credits in high school — 4.6 years compared with 2.9 years.
  • Graduates who were first-time-in-college students with no record of attempting college credits in high school averaged five years, while those with a record of taking college credits spent an average of 4.6 years earning their [bachelor’s] degrees.

The Toolbox Revisited: Paths to Degree Completion from High School through College
(2006. U.S. Department of Education)

A companion study to a previous U.S. Department of Education study, Answers in the Toolbox, published in 1999 (see below). Both national longitudinal studies reach similar conclusions: “The academic intensity of the student’s high school curriculum still counts more than anything else in precollegiate history in providing momentum toward completing a bachelor’s degree” (p. xviii).

“Less than 20 credits by the end of the first calendar year of enrollment … is a serious drag on degree completion. The original Tool Box told the same story. It is all the more reason to begin the transition process in high school with expanded dual enrollment programs offering true postsecondary course work so that students enter higher education with a minimum of 6 additive credits to help them cross that 20-credit line. Six is good, 9 is better, and 12 is a guarantee of momentum” (p. xx).

State Studies

Dual Credit, College Type, and Enhanced Degree Attainment (2017. Bob Blankenberger, Eric Lichtenberger, M. Allison Witt)

In this study, we analyzed data for the Illinois high school class of 2003 to determine the impact of dual credit participation on postsecondary attainment. We matched 8,095 dual credit participants to an equal number of nonparticipants within the same high school at the point of postsecondary enrollment using propensity scores calculated through a two-level hierarchical generalized linear model with college type as a post-treatment adjustment. Results indicate that community college students taking dual credit were significantly more likely to obtain a baccalaureate degree (28% to 19%, respectively) than their matched peers who did not participate in dual credit. We found similar improvements in postsecondary degree attainment for students attending colleges at multiple selectivity levels, although the largest and most robust effects were found for students starting at community colleges and at non/less competitive entry institutions.

Earning college credits in high school: Options, participation, and outcomes for Oregon students

(IES What’s Happening Report, March 2017. Ashley Pierson, Michelle Hodara, Jonathan Luke, Education Northwest)

Oregon’s public colleges offer many accelerated college credit options for high school students, but the cost, eligibility requirements and geographic coverage vary greatly across institutions. Oregon’s rate of community college dual credit participation is higher than the national average. Oregon high school students who take community college dual credit courses enroll and earn credit in an average of three dual credit courses.

Dual-Credit/Dual-Enrollment Coursework and Long-Term College Success in Texas(2014. Justine Radunzel, Julie Noble, and Sue Wheeler)

This study, prepared by the national research organization ACT, followed all first-time students at four Texas public universities in fall 2005 and 2006, 42% of whom entered with dual credit hours completed. It examined the impact of dual credit coursework on students’ subsequent university coursework and long-term success in earning bachelors’ degrees, using a quasi-experimental technique known as propensity score matching to statistically control for student and school characteristics. The study found that students entering the four universities with dual credit were 30% more likely to earn Bachelor’s degrees within six years (42% more likely to complete them on time in four years). The typical time to degree for a student with dual credit was less than five years, while other students averaged six years. The study also found that dual credit courses were as effective as traditional courses in preparing students for subsequent coursework for 19 of 21-course pairs across a wide range of disciplines, based on those who earned a B or higher.

The Effects of Concurrent Enrollment on the College-Going and Remedial Education Rates of Colorado’s High School Students (2014. Colorado Department of Higher Education)

Following all 2010, 2011, and 2012 Colorado high school graduates, this study examined postsecondary outcomes using state-collected data from all Colorado public colleges and universities, supplemented with additional private and out-of-state colleges from the National Student Clearinghouse. Using regression analysis to statistically control for the impact of student demographic variables, ACT performance, and school variables, the study found that students who took dual and concurrent enrollment courses were 23% more likely to enroll in college immediately following high school graduation and 9% less likely to enroll in remedial classes. Students were also more likely to earn higher grades in their first year of college and accumulate more credit hours by the end of their first year.

College Course Grades for Dual Enrollment Students (2014. Jill Course and Jeff Allen)

This peer-reviewed study, conducted by researchers from the national research organization ACT, used student records from all Iowa community colleges and public four-year universities to examine performance in subsequent coursework in a sequence. It compared college and university course grades for students who took dual enrollment courses with grades of traditional education students who attended the same high schools, statistically controlling for prior academic achievement (ACT scores) and self-reported demographic characteristics. Looking at course grades in dozens of subject areas, it found few differences between students who took the first course through dual enrollment compared with students who took the first course after matriculating to a community college or university. The authors found no evidence that dual enrollment courses are less rigorous than traditional college courses, and that students appear to be equally prepared for future college coursework.

Dual Credit in Oregon, 2010 Follow-up: An Analysis of Students Taking Dual Credit in High School in 2007-08 with Subsequent Performance in College (2010. Office of Institutional Research, Oregon University System)

Researchers at the Oregon University System (OUS) specifically examined college courses taught in a high school, by a high school teacher that carry both high school and college credit – courses that NACEP defines as concurrent enrollment. The study examined the college participation and performance of 15,707 students attending an Oregon college or university whose college transcripts recorded their having taken a dual credit course while in high school. The researchers found that:

  • “Dual credit students have a higher college participation rate than high school graduates overall.”
  • “Dual credit students who go on to college continue to the second year at a higher rate than freshmen who enter college without having earned dual credit.”
  • “Among freshmen who continue to the second year of college, dual credit participants earn a higher first year GPA.”
  • “Students who continue to the second year of college accumulate more college credit if they take dual credit in high school.”

For the results on persistence to the second year of college, the authors controlled for academic strength (as measured by GPA, SAT scores, and receiving Advanced Placement credit) and student demographics, finding that “the odds that dual credit students would be predicted to persist to the second year of college are increased by 17% compared to students who did not take dual credit.”

The study also examined student performance in subsequent courses in a sequence in writing, mathematics, and Spanish:

  • “When dual credit students who take the prerequisite in high school and the final course in college are compared to their college classmates who take the entire sequence in college, it turns out that they pass the final course in proportions that are substantially equivalent to those of their college-prepared classmates”

The Postsecondary Achievement of Participants in Dual Enrollment: An Analysis of Student Outcomes in Two States (2007. Columbia University, Community College Research Center)

In this comprehensive study, researchers from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University examined the records of more than 300,000 dual enrollment students in Florida and New York. They found that students who took dual enrollment courses in high school were more likely to

  • Graduate from high school,
  • Enroll in college,
  • Start college in a 4-year institution,
  • Enroll in college fulltime and
  • Stay in college at least two years.

Three years after high school graduation, students who had participated in dual enrollment courses in high school had earned higher college GPAs and more postsecondary credits than their peers.

Additional Studies