The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Application Choice and Admission Success
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Spotlight Author: Jenny Parks
Study title and author:
“The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Application Choice and Admission Success.” by Vivian Yuen Ting Liu, Veronica Minaya, and Di Xu. December 2022.
Study purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine if taking dual enrollment (DE) courses resulted in an increase in: the total number of colleges students applied to; the likelihood of applying to moderately or highly selective four-year in-state institutions; and the likelihood of gaining admission to those institutions. This is one of only a very few studies that explore the impact of earning college credits in high school upon college application behavior.
Study sample and methods: Data were drawn from two cohorts (2007 and 2012) of ninth grade students from a state with one of the largest dual enrollment programs in the nation. In that state, students in all educational settings are eligible to participate in dual enrollment programs, and the state covers all costs associated with participation. State data allowed researchers to see students’ applications and admissions to in-state, four-year institutions. Researchers used a “regression discontinuity design to compare college application and admissions outcomes for students with a cumulative 10th grade GPA just above 3.0 – the required GPA cut-off for DE – [who did and did not participate in DE] to outcomes of students just below this cut-off [who mostly did not participate in DE].…any discontinuous jump in student outcomes around the cut-off can be interpreted as the causal impact of DE participation for students who are on the margin of meeting the participation criteria,” (p. 10) since the students as a group were otherwise highly similar to each other.
Summary of findings: Findings from the study indicate that, “DE students on average had better college application and admissions outcomes than their non-DE peers.” (p. 9) Within that general pattern were the following sub patterns:
- DE eligible students (possessing a GPA at or slightly above 3.0 but not taking DE courses) as well as DE participating students (possessing a GPA at or slightly above 3.0 and taking DE courses) were considered in the analysis along with DE ineligible students (possessing a GPA slightly below 3.0 and mostly not taking DE courses). DE eligible students did not apply to a greater number of four-year, in-state institutions than did DE ineligible students. However, though they applied to a similar number of institutions, DE eligible students applied to more moderately and highly selective institutions.
- Further, when compared to DE ineligible students, DE eligible students gained admission to more of the institutions to which they applied and showed a higher likelihood of gaining admission to a highly selective institution.
- When compared to DE eligible students, DE participating students applied to a greater number of institutions, and more of those institutions were moderately and highly selective. In fact, “[t]hese positive impacts seem to be driven primarily by the increased probability of applying to a highly selective four-year college.” (p. 13)
- “[T]he effect of DE on applying to less selective and moderately selective four-year colleges was driven by Black students, while the effects of applying to the most selective colleges were driven by White and Hispanic students.” (p.17)
- When compared to DE eligible students, DE participating students gained admission to more of the institutions to which they applied and showed a higher likelihood of gaining admission to a highly selective institution.
- “[T]he positive effect of DE on getting accepted by moderately selective colleges was concentrated on Black students, while the positive effect of DE on getting accepted by highly selective colleges was concentrated on White and Hispanic students.” (p.17)
Implications: Research has examined and established the causal relationship between DE participation and college enrollment and between DE participation and college performance. However, little research has explored the relationship between DE participation and students’ choices to apply to college. This is a critical area for investigation as research shows that many well-qualified students from underserved groups do not apply to selective colleges that are a better match for their demonstrated level of academic performance. Since the findings of this study point to the pronounced positive impact DE participation has on the college application and admissions outcomes for Black students in particular, it is important that researchers and practitioners pay close attention to the causal connection and advance this line of investigation.
The next steps in this line of investigation should include:
1) replications this study in other contexts with different DE eligibility cut-offs and data that might provide information about applications to out-of-state public and private institutions
2) qualitative research to help us understand the mechanisms by which DE participation increases college application and admissions outcomes (i.e., do students feel better prepared and confident to apply to more selective colleges, do they interact with and learn from other students who are applying to such colleges, etc.).
Link to journal article: https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/CCRC_Working_Paper_No._129.pdf