NACEP Fast Facts
Equity / NACEP Publications / National Reporting / Student Outcomes /
Programs that allow high school students to take college courses in high school, known by various names such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, dual credit, and early college, are popular, prevalent, and growing. The field has seen tremendous growth over the past decade the federal government and state statutes have increasingly expanded their recognition of this key student success initiative. As more colleges and school districts prioritize access to impactful high school to college bridging initiatives and more students and families seek better options for leveraging their high school years we have seen programs grow, develop, innovate and become integrated into the nation’s educational landscape.
We have combed through decades of state and federal education data and years of rigorous research to build this fact sheet for use by programs, practitioners, policymakers, communities, students and their families.
ONE IN THREE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TAKE COLLEGE COURSES
Dual and concurrent enrollment programs are popular across the country. Dating back to the 1950s, these programs have grown from a niche project to widely available in the US. Their unique ability to build lasting and impactful connections between secondary and post-secondary education and clear value to students, have made them as popular with families and policymakers alike.
- Thirty-four percent of U.S. students take college courses in high school. This is a threefold increase from the 10% participation rate reported in 2010. 1
- In some states, high school students’ postsecondary course-taking rates far exceed the national average.
- Indiana: 58% of Indiana high school graduates complete at least one college course 2
- Iowa: 56.8% of Iowa seniors enrolled in college courses in high school 3
- Idaho: 57% of Idaho high school graduates earned college credit while in high school 4
- Minnesota: 42.8% of public high school graduates enrolled in at least one college course in the 2018-2019 school year 5
- Colorado: 38.2% of Colorado high school graduates participate in the state’s Concurrent Enrollment program 6
CONCURRENT ENROLLMENT IS THE MOST COMMON COURSE DELIVERY MODEL
- Eighty percent of dually enrolled students nationally take their college courses at their own school, and an additional 6% take the course at a school other than their home high school, such as a career center or academy. Students in the suburbs, towns and rural areas are even more likely to take a course at their own school. 1
9 OUT OF 10 HIGH SCHOOLS OFFER COLLEGE COURSES
- 88.98% of high schools report that they offer dual enrollment coursework. 7
- High schools in the South (93.7%) and Midwest (91.1%) are more likely to offer dual enrollment programs than high schools in the Northeast (84.9%) or West (81.4%). 7
- The percentage of public high schools offering dual/concurrent coursework in 2017-18 varied from 100% in Georgia and Idaho to 55% in Nevada. 8
INCREDIBLE STUDENT IMPACT
- The Value of a Degree: A postsecondary degree or credential increases individuals’ lifetime earning power and economic stability, career options and opportunities, offering stability in the face downturns in the economy and labor market. Now, more than ever, it is critical for students to access and complete college, dual and concurrent enrollment improves students’ likelihood of starting and finishing a degree.
- The Benefits of Dual and Concurrent Enrollment: Students completing college courses in high school, compared to their peers who complete no dual enrollment credits, are substantially more likely to
- Graduate high school
- Go to college
- Stay in college and complete a degree, often in less time than their non-participating peers
- Student completion of college courses in high school also has a positive effect on academic achievement in high school, high school graduation, non-remedial placement upon college entry, postsecondary GPA and credit accumulation, and degree attainment.9-
- A study from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) found that 88% of the dual/concurrent enrollment students went on to college after high school and completed degrees at higher rates and in less time than their non-participating peers. 14 Several studies have documented these positive impacts of dual/concurrent enrollment participation after controlling for various student academic and demographic measures.
A POWERFUL EQUITY LEVER FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
Closing Equity Gaps for ALL students but Particularly Low-Income Students and Students of Color: These higher outcomes persist when controlling for race/ethnicity, parents’ highest level of education and socioeconomic status, and the concentration of low-income or students of color in the student’s high school. 9-13
- Students from low-income backgrounds: Participating in dual/concurrent enrollment has a positive impact on college-going rates of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Students from low-income backgrounds and/or school districts who participated in dual/concurrent enrollment were nearly 10% more likely to enter college after high school graduation than their non-participating peers. 9-13
- Students of color: Participating in dual/concurrent enrollment has a profound positive impact on students of color college-going rates.
- Students in majority-minority school districts that participated in dual/concurrent enrollment were 32-56% more likely to go on to college after high school than non-participating students in the same school district. 9-12
- One state system study found that the 6-year college graduation rates for students of color that had participated in dual/concurrent enrollment were 33% higher than their peers that had not participated and 12% higher than white dual/concurrent enrollment participants.
- Early findings suggest that high school minority students who complete postsecondary math and science courses experience lower levels of remedial math placement and are more likely to start college as STEM majors and complete STEM degrees. 15
AN UNDERUTILIZED EQUITY LEVER
Dual and concurrent enrollment works to improve college-going and increases college success and degree attainment but it needs to be widely available for ALL students who can benefit from these programs. School characteristics and community characteristics all create inequitable access to this critical college access and success opportunity. We must do better!
- High-poverty, urban, small, and specialized high schools are less likely to offer dual/concurrent enrollment programs:
- Poverty: High-poverty high schools are 19% less likely to offer dual/concurrent enrollment programs than their low-poverty counterparts. 16
- School location: 57% percent of urban high schools offer dual/concurrent enrollment opportunities, compared to 67% of suburban high schools and 77% of town/rural high schools. 16
- School size: Small high schools (serving 200 or fewer students) are 32% less likely to offer dual/concurrent enrollment programs, compared to large high schools (serving over 1,000 students). 16
- School focus: While 76% of traditional and 72% of magnet schools offered dual/concurrent enrollment courses, far fewer charter (40%), alternative (20%) and special education (34%) schools offered such programs.
- Students of parents with lower levels of educational attainment and Black and Hispanic students have lower dual/concurrent enrollment participation rates:
- Parents’ educational attainment: Students from whose parents had less than a high school diploma had 16% lower rate of dual/concurrent enrollment participation than did students whose parents’ highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree or higher.1
- Race/Ethnicity: 38% percent of high school students who were White or Asian had completed postsecondary coursework, compared to 30% of Hispanic and 27% of Black students. 1
1: NCES, Dual Enrollment, Participation and Characteristics, February 2019 [NCES 2019-176]
2: Indiana CHE, Early College Credit Report
5: 2021 Minnesota Department of Education public data request
8: NCES, National Teacher and Principal Survey, Among public schools with students enrolled in any of grades 9-12, percentage that offered various learning opportunities and types of classroom organization, by state: 2017-18
9: IES, What Works Clearinghouse, WWC Intervention Report: Dual Enrollment Programs, February 2017
10: CCRC Working Paper no. 113, College Acceleration for All? Mapping Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment Participation, October 2019
12: Struhl and Vargas, Taking College Courses in High School: A Strategy for College Readiness, October 2012;
13: An, B., & Taylor, J. (2019). A review of empirical studies on dual enrollment: Assessing educational outcomes
14: Fink, Jenkins, Yanagiura, What Happens to Students Who Take Community College “Dual Enrollment” Courses in High School?, September 2017