Students who take college-level courses while in high school are more than one and a half times more likely to enroll in, persist through, and complete college, according to a new study of more than 30,000 Texas high school graduates by the education nonprofit Jobs for the Future (JFF). The report, Taking College Courses in High School: A Strategy for College Readiness, argues that dual enrollment, in which high school students complete courses for college and high school credit, may be key to states and school districts increasing college and career readiness.
“A big question in education reform has been: ‘How do we increase the college readiness of those most likely not to go?’” said Joel Vargas, report coauthor and president of JFF’s High School Through College project. “Dual enrollment is a strategy states can use to help answer that question.”
As shown in the graph to the right, 47.2 percent of students who completed a college course while still in high school earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to 30.2 percent of students who did not.
This positive effect held across income and race, the report finds. For example, low-income students were 2.41 times more likely to attend college after completing dual enrollment than those who did not.
The report also finds that individual dual-enrollment courses may be stronger indicators of success than others. Specifically, students who completed English language arts courses through dual enrollment were 2.75 times more likely to enroll in college than those who did not. On the other hand, students who took a physical education class through dual enrollment were only 1.40 times more likely to enroll in college than students who did not.
To take advantage of the positive impacts of dual enrollment, the report recommends that policymakers at the state and federal levels increase preparation and access to dual enrollment programs, especially for low-income and minority students. It also calls for more research to determine which college courses students need most to prepare them for college. Specifically, it says states should collect more data around the college-course subject areas that are offered, the number of courses that students complete, whether the courses are located on a college or high school campus, and whether the instructor is a full-time college instructor or an adjunct professor.
Overall, the report urges policymakers to encourage states to adopt and expand their dual-enrollment programs.
“We’re excited to add to a growing body of research evidence strongly suggesting that dual enrollment improved education outcomes for all populations, including those currently underrepresented in higher education,” said Ben Struhl, coauthor of the report and senior project manager at JFF.
Read the full study online at http://www.jff.org/sites/default/files/TakingCollegeCourses_101712.pdf.