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Dual Enrollment Programs Show Promise for Non-High Achievers

Is it possible that getting high school kids--even those who considered "high risk"--into college courses as part of a dual enrollment program could increase their chances of success and improve school retention efforts? That's the conclusion of a recent study on the topic.

Dual enrollment programs give students in high school the chance to take courses for college credit. Typically, they're taken by students who are doing well academically. While dual enrollment courses are true college courses, they may be taken in the high school--in fact, the authors reported that 74 percent of college classes are taught in the high school. Or they're taught at a college campus or via online delivery.

According to "Dual Enrollment: A Strategy for Educational Advancement of all Students," such programs can help the transition from high school to college. The report was written by Elisabeth Barnett, a senior research associate at Columbia University's Teachers College, and Liesa Stamm, a senior research associate with Rutgers University's Center for Children and Childhood Studies. The researchers looked at various dual enrollment configurations as well as other studies about these programs.

While the researchers found examples of programs that appear to increase college attendance and success rates even for non-traditional students, they also found a mixed bag of student support systems to ensure that success. "Student support systems are important for ensuring that high school students succeed in college-level courses," the report stated. That includes academic support, such as tutoring or teacher attention; course reconfigurations, such as stretching a one-semester class across two semesters; college preparatory initiatives, such as individual guidance in filling out financial aid applications or helping select and apply to college; career exploration programs, in which the student might do "job shadowing" or have work-based learning experiences; and mentoring by teachers, school staff, or others.

The researchers found that state policies also played a "major role" in promoting or deferring dual enrollment. For example, state-mandated minimum eligibility requirements may limit student access. Also, only 15 states, according to the report, require their public two- and four-year colleges to accept dual enrollment credits.

"Education advocates and policy makers are rightly promoting dual enrollment as an effective approach to reaching multiple student achievement goals," said Barnett. "What we found, though, is that there is a patchwork of policies that govern dual enrollment. In fact, some policies provide financial disincentives for high schools and colleges to provide dual enrollment opportunities. We need policies that promote greater access to these pathways into college for all students."

The report concluded that "there is evidence that dual enrollment helps a wide range of students to be more successful in college. Students in these programs experience themselves as real college students and gain confidence and skills that can help them to excel academically."

The report was commissioned by the Blackboard Institute, an independent organization within the company.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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