May 2022: An Analysis of the Impact of High School Dual Enrollment Course Participation on Post-Secondary Academic Success, Persistence and Degree Completion

Research Spotlights /

Released May 2022

Spotlight Author: Jason Taylor

Study Title and Author: “An Analysis of the Impact of High School Dual Enrollment Course Participation on Post-Secondary Academic Success, Persistence and Degree Completion” by Jodi Swanson

Study Purpose: The purpose of this study was to use a nationally representative study to examine the impact of dual enrollment on college persistence and degree attainment. Swanson’s analysis included a sample of students who were 12th graders in 1992 and matriculated to college by 2000; approximately 10% of students in the sample had participated in dual enrollment.  The study used the NELS: 88/2000 dataset and the Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS: 2000) dataset.

Summary of Study’s Findings: Swanson’s study included many nuanced findings using regression models, but the study showed that dual enrollment led to higher odds of persisting in college among all dual enrollment students and higher odds of degree attainment. Swanson found that dual enrollment students were 5% more likely to persist to their second year of college than non-dual enrollment students, after controlling for several confounding variables. In terms of bachelor’s degree completion, Swanson found that dual enrollment participation did not predict bachelor’s degree completion for all dual enrollment students. Swanson also found that dual enrollment students were 10% more likely to complete an associate’s degree or certificate and they were 4% more likely to go to graduate school or receive an advanced degree. Although the study did not find an overall impact of dual enrollment on bachelor’s degree attainment, the results showed that dual enrollment students who generated early academic momentum by accumulating at least 20 college credits within their first year of college were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree. In other words, generating early academic momentum—including through dual enrollment—had the largest impact on students transition into and through college.

Study’s Implications: It has been three decades since the high school students in Swanson’s study participated in dual enrollment, when dual enrollment was far less popular and accepted as an educational practice. Yet, the first study to use nationally representative data that examined the outcomes of those dually enrolled students told us that dual enrollment matters for students’ college transition and academic success in college. Despite all the variation in dual enrollment programs and models at the local level, Swanson’s study affirmed that at the national level, dual enrollment programs can be an effective program to help high school students access college and succeed in college.

How to Access the Research: Swanson’s full dissertation is available at ProQuest and available through many academic libraries.

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).