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On Ramp to College: A State Policymaker's Guide to Dual Enrollment

Nancy Hoffman, Joel Vargas, and Janet Santos

On Ramp to College reviews trends in a growing number of states that see dual enrollment as a way to expand college opportunity—particularly for students who might not be considered college-bound. The guide shows how dual enrollment can serve as an “on ramp” to postsecondary education for students who are otherwise unlikely to attend college. It also highlights successful statewide dual enrollment efforts, provides a step-by-step plan for policymakers to create successful programs and assess current approaches, and guides state officials in how to provide a wide range of students with equal access to dual enrollment and make it part of a continuous system for grades 9-16.

Most states developed dual enrollment programs to give advanced students a head start on college. Few programs were designed to serve as a bridge to college for those students not already college-bound. However, the situation is changing as dual enrollment programs have become more common and a wider variety of students participate. States can increase the likelihood of creating successful programs by following several guiding principles:

  • Create a clear purpose;
  • Provide equal access and eligibility;
  • Offer high-quality course options and student support systems;
  • Ensure adequate funding and systems to track data on quality and outcomes; and
  • Build governance and alignment to ensure coordination between high schools and higher education institutions.