Research Demonstrates Colorado’s Strategic Investment in Concurrent Enrollment Yields Significant Equity Results

March 1, 2021

Let’s face it, 2020 was a tumultuous year with a busy news cycle day in and day out. As a result, a lot of outstanding work didn’t get the attention it deserved. Fortunately, our October event Connect 2020: The NACEP Digital Forum provided a platform to share.  Today’s post summarizes some exciting findings from Colorado that were shared at Connect 2020.

To me, this study stands out because of its rigor, strong equity focus, and its integration with state education and workforce initiatives (and data) to document the return on investment for Concurrent Enrollment for students and the State of Colorado. I reached out to the three leads on the project; Michael Vente, Carl Einhaus, and Dr. Pamela Buckley; to share a few thoughts about the study.

What is the impetus for this paper?

In striving to support student success, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) and the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) set a goal of reaching a 66% postsecondary educational attainment by 2025. In 2017, the CCHE issued Colorado Rises, which lays out strategies that drive toward this goal. Additionally, CDHE’s Roadmap to Containing College Costs and Making College Affordable highlights ways to advance affordability through institutional cost containment and innovative practices. Colorado sees its state-funded Concurrent Enrollment program as key to reducing postsecondary costs and time-to-degree, which led CDHE (in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder) to pursue grants from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab to evaluate the program’s impact on student outcomes.

What are the key findings from the research?

Students who took Concurrent Enrollment were 25% more likely to matriculate to college than those who did not take Concurrent Enrollment.

Also, for students who matriculated to college within one year of high school graduation, compared to those who did not participate, students who took Concurrent Enrollment were:

  • 8% more likely to earn a 2-year degree within 2 years.
  • 10% more likely to earn a 4-year degree within 4 years and 1.1% more likely to earn a 4-year degree within 3 years.
  • 6% more likely to have higher workforce earnings after 5 years.

Meanwhile, Concurrent Enrollment improved the odds of college entrance, success, and earnings by similar amounts regardless of income, minority status, gender, or academic achievement. These findings are presented online as a policy brief and a full technical report.

These impressive impacts show the power of Colorado’s Concurrent Enrollment program in bolstering student success. Still, there is more to learn. Additional studies are needed to examine long-term wage impacts, especially as the economy recovers from COVID-19. Also, this study does not examine outcomes for students who participate in the program but do not attend college, and/or students who delay matriculation.

How do these findings support or advance programs in the state of Colorado?

Colorado’s Concurrent Enrollment program helps high school students access postsecondary education with little-to-no cost to families. This research suggests that Colorado’s program serves all types of students and outcomes for these students are better than for students who do not participate in the program. We must therefore do more to increase awareness among families that Colorado’s Concurrent Enrollment program is a pathway to equitably and effectively support high school students to enroll in and succeed in career-connected postsecondary education. Additionally, we must provide high school counselors with information to advise students on the benefits of Concurrent Enrollment, and to connect students with college advisors for information on course selection, transferability, and applicability.

What are takeaways for other states, so they can take action?

This research helps make the case that opportunities for high school students to take college credit while still in high school positively impacts postsecondary and workforce outcomes. Concurrent enrollment can therefore be a tool to bolster postsecondary success and enhance the state’s talent pipeline.

Additionally, this research is an example of what can be achieved when state agencies share data in well-governed, responsible ways. By connecting secondary, postsecondary, and workforce data and conducting rigorous analyses using those data, Colorado has been able to glean insights into the return on investment that postsecondary education can bring to the broader talent development ecosystem.


  • Michael Vente, Senior Director of Research and Data Governance at the Colorado Department of Higher Education
  • Carl Einhaus, Senior Director of Student Success & P-12 Alignment and Colorado GEAR UP Project Director at the Colorado Department of Higher Education
  • Pamela Buckley, Senior Research Associate, Institute of Behavioral Science University of Colorado at Boulder


Reach out to Michael Vente at