tc columbia

State Dual Enrollment Policies Not Sufficient to Reach Students Who Might Benefit from Them Most

Washington, DC (May 1, 2005) — While most policymakers and educators hope to expand the availability of credit-based transition programs at community colleges for a broader range of high school students, few states have legislation that supports outreach to low- and middle-achieving students. State Dual Enrollment Policies: Addressing Access and Quality, a report released October 2004 by the Community College Research Center, analyzes dual enrollment legislation in all 50 states and whether these policies promote or inhibit the spread of dual enrollment programs. The report was presented at an event on Capitol Hill organized by the American Youth Forum, a nonprofit development organization that bridges youth policy, practice, and research for professionals working on youth policy issues at the national, state, and local levels.

State Dual Enrollment Policies identifies 10 features by which dual enrollment programs can vary from state to state, including admission requirements, program structure, course content, funding and whether state policies mandate their existence. The report also finds that the state policies to guide dual enrollment programs differ widely. Ten states do not have any legislation addressing dual enrollment at all, while the remaining states do not address all 10 criteria. Where policies exist, states often focus on ensuring that dual enrollment programs preserve the standards of college education and protecting their financial investment. These priorities, combined with a lack of legislation in many states, can conflict with the goal of making dual enrollment programs accessible to a broader range of students.

“In programs around the country, dual enrollment experiences are inspiring some low-achieving students to become better prepared for college through more demanding academic coursework,” said Thomas Bailey, Director of the Community College Research Center. “Policymakers should do more to develop programs and services that effectively link secondary and postsecondary education so that more students have the opportunity to rise to a college-level academic challenge.”

In examining the implications of state policy for programs and students, the report also finds that limited state policies and regulation leave program decisions up to the institutions, thus creating uneven program structures across the states. The study makes the following recommendations for policymakers and program regulators:

  • Identify funding mechanisms that meet the needs of all stakeholders. State funds earmarked for dual enrollment can be unstable in economic downturns. Instead, high schools and colleges should consider sharing the burden of funding dual enrollment programs as they also share the burden of educating these students.
  • Identify the needs of students beyond academic course taking. Developing comprehensive dual enrollment programs often requires more resources than single programs and limited funding may prevent programs from providing services such as counseling that can be very beneficial for students.
  • Clarify program goals so that the policies and regulations support the stated goals of the program. Policies should be developed to support program goals that encourage participation from a wider range of students. If schools lose funding or are forced to pay for students’ tuition, they are unlikely to publicize dual enrollment programs and may limit student participation to those who are most academically able.
  • Balance the needs of academically-oriented students with the needs of technically-oriented students. Dual enrollment programs should provide career-related and technical opportunities that offer credit for both technical and academic courses, thus encouraging participation from a broader range of students.

“Dual enrollment programs offer an innovative solution to engage a broad range of students who might otherwise disengage. Our research is intended to help develop policies that can better support and encourage the successful implementation of dual enrollment programs,” said Bailey.