July 2022: Dual Enrollment, Performance-Based Funding, and the Completion Agenda: An Analysis of Post-Secondary Credential Outcomes of Dual Enrollment Students by Credential Type

Funding Models / Research / State Policy /

Study Title and Author: “Dual Enrollment, Performance-Based Funding, and the Completion Agenda: An Analysis of Post-Secondary Credential Outcomes of Dual Enrollment Students by Credential Type” by Matthew P. Ison

Study Purpose:

This research article explored completion and anticipated completion rates of dual enrollment students post high school graduation to fill a gap in completion research. In addition to highlighting important prior research, the article also considered policy implications surrounding the Completion Agenda and the national push to increase associate and certificate completion following recommendations from The American Association of Community College’s in 2012. The study analyzed post-secondary matriculation and completion data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to determine college attendance and the completion pathway of students who had previously completed dual enrollment courses.

Summary of Study’s Findings:

The study utilized data from NCES’s Beginning Postsecondary Students 04/09 longitudinal study which included 18,640 college students and 2,620 institutions. This study differs from others tracking dual enrollment impact on degree completion because it evaluated data from students who had already matriculated to college instead of surveying high school students and then later tracking their matriculation. The study assessed certificate completion 3 and 5 years post high school graduation.

Key Findings

  • The study found that dual enrollment students were more likely to complete some type of post-secondary education compared to those who did not complete dual enrollment courses.
  • It also found that though 75% of all national dual enrollment credit is granted through community colleges, students who participated in dual enrollment programs were more likely to bypass associate and certificate programs and pursue a bachelor’s level education.
  • Dual enrollment students complete associate degrees at a higher rate 3 years post high school graduation, but non dual enrollment students complete associate degrees at a higher rate than dual enrollment students 5 years post high school graduation.
  • Non dual enrollment students complete a higher percentage of certificate programs 3 and 5 years post high school graduation compared to dual enrollment students.
  • The study indicated that Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino students were less likely to earn any credential or degree when controlling for dual enrollment participation, socioeconomic status, and academic performance compared to White students, but were more likely to earn a certificate.

Study Implications:

More research is needed to evaluate potential influence dual enrollment courses may have on matriculation and degree or credential choice. Though dual enrollment students are more likely to complete bachelor’s degrees, colleges should not exclude dual enrollment students from retention or education intervention in order to increase equity in degree attainment across historically underrepresented student groups. The article encourages policy makers to be clear about outcomes and evaluation measures when implementing policy, especially when used in conjunction with performance-based funding. This study did not evaluate how course selection impacted student choice regarding degree pathway, and it is important to consider that certain course offerings prepare students for specific degree paths. If state policy and institutions are focused on increasing certificate and associate completion, course offerings for dual enrollment would need to be considered and how those courses impact high school graduation if those courses are used to supplement high school education requirements.

How to Access the Research:


Spotlight Author: Sarah Brown, NACEP Strategic Projects Coordinator

Research Spotlight Disclosure: The Research Spotlights are written by members of the NACEP Research Commission. The spotlights are not intended to be comprehensive reviews of research articles and are not reviewed or approved by the study’s authors. The commentary and interpretation of the study represent the Commissioner’s perspectives and not the study’s author(s).