Make dual enrollment a seamless pathway to a college degree for more high school students in need. Improve the quality of college courses taken for dual credit, align those courses to degree requirements, and bolster the success rates of underrepresented and underserved student populations.
A growing number of high school graduates are enrolling in college, but for far too many their high school graduation could be their last commencement ceremony. More than half of students who start college drop out within six years. Completion rates are even worse for first-generation students, who may have trouble covering costs and navigating college.
Taking college courses for dual credit increases the likelihood that high school students graduate, go to college, and attain a postsecondary credential. But the growth of dual enrollment programs in recent years will only deliver those benefits if they are designed carefully and include supports specifically for underserved students, who have the most to gain from early exposure to college. Moreover, without the right state policy framework in place, dual enrollment programs may not live up to academic standards of higher education or they may prove to be financially unsustainable for educational institutions and reinforce equity gaps.
JFF recommends that states set standards to ensure that dual enrollment courses, no matter the setting, are equivalent to college courses in terms of curriculum, course materials, academic rigor, assessments, and instructor credentials. States also should ensure that dual credits count toward postsecondary programs of study.
States should work with practitioners to curate academic- and career-focused pathways that embed college courses in high school and ensure transfer of dual credits to postsecondary institutions in desired fields of study. We also call on states to make dual enrollment programs affordable and set funding standards that are fair for high schools, colleges, and taxpayers. Finally, states should provide extra incentives and supports to high schools and colleges in low-income areas to increase participation among underserved students.
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