By Troy Miller, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, Florida College Access Network

Last year in Florida, over 46,000 high school students participated in dual enrollment programs, a number that has been steadily increasing. With changes on board for our state’s high school standards and other college-prep choices for students and parents to make, being able to sort through what we know and don’t know about college success and completion has never been more important.

Though dual enrollment programs for high school students are present in all 50 states, most of the research that currently exists has focused on the short-term benefits, such as improving high school graduation rates, college-going and college continuation rates. We also know surprisingly little about how participation in dual enrollment impacts students from different socioeconomic backgrounds, which is notable because of how low college degree attainment remains for those who come from low-income backgrounds.

Using two national, longitudinal education surveys, sociologist Brian An from the University of Iowa aimed to provide some much needed insight on the long-term effects of dual enrollment programs on students from different backgrounds and levels of academic preparation1. The author found low-income students who completed dual enrollment courses were more likely to actually earn a college degree than their counterparts who didn’t participate in dual enrollment. And while all students were shown to experience long-term benefits from participating in dual enrollment, it was more so meaningful (in terms of college completion) for students from low-income households.

Another finding that caught my attention was related to the number of dual enrollment courses students take and its impact on degree attainment. High school students completing just one dual enrollment course were shown to earn college degrees at the same rate as other students who didn’t take dual enrollment at all. However, when students completed two dual enrollment courses they were 12 percentage points more likely to earn a college degree when compared to students not taking dual enrollment courses. Somewhat strangely, this trend did not persist beyond two dual enrollment courses, as students completing three or more courses experienced about the same long-term benefits as those who stuck with just two.

An’s research is certainly food for thought, as states have placed a premium on policies and programs that can be shown to increase the likelihood students will not just pursue higher education, but also finish with a college degree in hand.

~Follow Troy Miller on twitter @TroyMillerFCAN

1An, Brian. “The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit?” Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis (2012): Published to Web on October 9, 2012 as doi: 10.3102/0162373712461933.

Article can be accessed directly from the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis website here:

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