The number of students taking college courses while they are in high school has grown dramatically over the past two decades—particularly at community colleges—but many colleges and states do not track participants’ outcomes. Using student enrollment and degree records from the National Student Clearinghouse, this report is the first to look state by state at who enrolls in community college “dual enrollment” courses and what happens to them after high school.
The study tracked more than 200,000 high school students who first took a community college course in fall 2010 for six years, through summer 2016 (five years after high school). Eighty-eight percent of these students continued in college after high school, and most earned a certificate or degree or transferred from a two-year college to a four-year college within five years. What type of college former dual enrollment students attended after high school and how many completed a college credential varied greatly by state, and many states showed big disparities in credential completion rates between lower and higher income students.
Despite the potential benefits of dual enrollment, the research raises important questions about why student outcomes varied substantially by state and often by income. The authors encourage colleges and states to monitor dual enrollment students, both while they are in high school and after they graduate, using the measures and results presented in this report to benchmark their performance nationally and by state. Working with their high school partners, colleges can examine what strategies are working to help dual enrollment students enroll in college after high school and earn college credentials in a timely fashion, and what additional steps are needed to improve college access and success for all students.
A summary of this paper is also available in Learning Abstracts, vol. 30, no. 1.