Study Finds Dual Enrollment Can Help Struggling College Students

By Catherine Groux
Posted July 20, 2012 11:43 AM

Dual enrollment programs can help high schoolers succeed in college.
Dual enrollment programs can help high schoolers succeed in college.
Today, many students in high schools across the country have the chance to take courses at a local community college while working toward their diplomas. Various academic professionals believe this can encourage these students to stay in college longer, giving them a better chance of earning an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Study Shows Benefits of Dual Enrollment

A recent three-year study by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University's Teachers College analyzed a dual enrollment program for at-risk students in California, including low-income youths, English learners and students who struggled academically.

In monitoring participants of the dual enrollment program, researchers found that 62% of individuals in the first group went on to college, compared with only 48% of their peers. During the second year of the study, 51% of participants pursued postsecondary education, compared to 44% of their classmates.

The study also found that when dual enrollment program participants enroll in college, they are more likely to persist than their peers. Additionally, they tend to accumulate a higher number of postsecondary credits than their classmates. 

Examining the Advantages of Dual Enrollment

According to a June 2010 report by the Blackboard Institute, dual enrollment programs can provide many benefits to students. For instance, they give high schoolers the chance to see what college classes are like, which often provides them with confidence that they are ready for postsecondary education. This, in turn, eases youths' transition from high school to college.

Additionally, dual enrollment programs allow students to earn college credits in high school. This can save them money, as they typically do not need to pay tuition on the credits they earn in high school. At the same time, accumulating postsecondary credits in high school can help students graduate sooner.

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

For at-risk students, the chance to take college classes free of charge can be particularly beneficial. Katherine Hughes, assistant director of CCRC, told EdSource Today that during her recent California study, she found that many students came from families that did not encourage them to attend college. Therefore, earning a bachelor's degree seemed like an impossible dream to these youths until dual enrollment programs showed them that college is within reach.

"To be able to offer them these opportunities to gain college credits for free, to have a college experience and think to themselves that they can do college, that they’re college students, is just very transformative," Hughes said.

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