Does Delivery Location Matter? A National Study of the Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Readiness and Early Academic Momentum

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Study Title and Author:

Does Delivery Location Matter? A National Study of the Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Readiness and Early Academic Momentum by Xiaodan Hu and Hsun-Yu Chan

Study Purpose:

Dual enrollment (DE) course location varies. About 86% of students have taken courses at their high school, 17% traveled to a college campus, and 8% have taken an online course (Xu and Chan, 2021). Courses at a student’s high are more accessible and can help prevent barriers such as scheduling and transportation. However, the authors acknowledged the criticism associated with DE courses offered at a student’s high school and online. Some of these concerns include rigor, instructor credentials, and the disconnect between the course and the college environment. Courses on a college campus can provide exposure to college culture, expectations, and high-achieving peers. Despite these benefits, historically marginalized populations are less likely to attend a course on a college campus due to barriers such as schedules and transportation. 

Prior research on DE course location does not control for the role of student choice (selection bias) in course selection. Location choice can be influenced by academic motivation, rural status, and personal preferences. The authors also intended to capture the role of DE in academic momentum and college success, with a particular focus on economically and racially minoritized students. 

Does DE course location matter and does it vary by student’s background?

Summary of Study’s Findings:

According to Xu and Chan (2021), “Dual enrollment courses taken on a high school or college campus equally fuel students college readiness and early academic momentum…”(p. 1)

In short, no, DE course location does not matter, though outcomes based on location do vary somewhat by student’s background. 

Key Findings:

Taking at least one DE course on campus (when compared to students who took a course at their high school or online) had no impact on:

  • high school GPA
  • probability of attending college
  • enrollment in developmental courses
  • enrollment in college immediately after high school graduation
  • probability of enrolling as a full-time student

Students who take courses at a high school, online, or on a college campus benefit equally in terms of improved college readiness and accumulating academic momentum. 

There are two important caveats to this study. Students with higher socioeconomic status (SES) taking an on-campus course had higher GPAs and were less likely to enroll in a developmental course. Lower SES students who took courses on-campus were less likely to enroll full-time compared to their peers who took courses at a high school or online. 

Study Implications:

In a discussion of the “why”, researchers cite NACEP standards and statewide DE policy requirements, noting that courses are designed with quality standards at the forefront, under the oversight of college faculty. On-campus courses provide exposure to the college environment, but large class sizes may negatively influence the student experience. On the other hand, high schools provide supportive teachers who know their students personally, which can improve learning outcomes. The authors contend that student advising should recognize the overall benefits of DE and encourage and support student participation, regardless of course location.

Practitioners could use this study to refute a common criticism of dual enrollment programs: positive outcomes are due to pre-existing academic and motivational student characteristics. Researchers essentially “leveled the playing field” to account for student background differences and to ensure comparability between students taking courses on-campus and at their high schools (or online). Outcomes could also encourage programs seeking faculty support for concurrent enrollment courses to demonstrate that high-quality programs are equally effective in promoting college readiness as courses taken on a college campus. 

How to Access the Research:

Hu X, Chan H-Y. Does Delivery Location Matter? A National Study of the Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Readiness and Early Academic Momentum. Teachers College Record. 2021;123(4):1-32. doi:10.1177/016146812112300401

Spotlight Author: Amy Hubbard, Executive Director of Early College, The University of Maine System & NACEP Research Commission Member