A large majority of dual enrollment students (88 percent), those who take community college courses while still enrolled in high school, continue college after high school, and most earn a degree within six years.
Studies show that high school students in dual enrollment–taking community college courses at the same time as high school courses–are more likely to graduate high school, go on to college and complete degrees than other students. But the number of dual enrollment students varies widely across the country, and their success rates are not consistent.
A new study from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center examines each state to gauge how many high school students are taking community college classes and how they do when they move on to college.
In the past 15 years, dual enrollment has increased rapidly among high school students who want to get a jump-start on college and save money.
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“Dual enrollment has exploded in recent years. Over a million students are taking college courses through community colleges nationally. Studies suggest that taking college courses in high school can increase the chances that both advantaged and disadvantaged students go to college and earn a degree,” said Davis Jenkins, a senior research scholar at CCRC and an author of the report. “But many colleges and states don’t have a good handle on how many dual enrollment students go on to college and how many complete. This report provides the first breakdown of community college dual enrollment student outcomes by state.”
What Happens to Students Who Take Community College “Dual Enrollment” Courses in High School? examines more than 200,000 high school students who took a community college class in fall 2010. The study tracked those students for six years, through summer 2016. The study focused exclusively on high school students who were dually enrolled at community colleges and did not include those who took classes as four-year colleges.
Nationally, 15 percent of new community college students in fall 2010 were high school dual enrollment students–but that figure varies widely by state, ranging from 1 percent in Georgia to 34 percent in Kentucky. Nearly two thirds of community college dual enrollment students nationally were from low- or middle-income families—about the same proportion as students who start in a community college after high school.
Among former dual enrollment students who started at a community college after high school, 46 percent earned a college credential within five years. The percentage ranged from 28 percent in West Virginia to 64 percent in Florida. In addition to Florida, more than half of students in 12 other states, including Minnesota, Mississippi, and Washington, earned a college degree or certificate. In 13 states, there were gaps of 10 or more percentage points in completion rates between lower and higher income students who first enrolled in a community college after high school. Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa had more parity in completion rates.
In 13 states, there were gaps of 10 percentage points or more in completion rates between lower and higher income former dual enrollment students who first enrolled in a community college after high school.
Sixty-four percent of former community college dual enrollment students who first enrolled in a four-year college after high school completed a degree within five years. Those completion rates ranged from 34 percent in Nevada to 75 percent in Florida.
Most states had achievement gaps between lower and higher income former dual enrollment students who entered a four-year college after high school.
The study recommends that while dual enrollment has benefits for students, college and state leaders should attempt to better align dual enrollment offerings with college degree requirements and should investigate gaps in achievement between dual enrollment students of different income levels.