The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit?

Issue/Topic: High School--Dual/Concurrent Enrollment; P-16 or P-20
Author(s): An, Brian
Publication: Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Published On: 10/9/2012

Dual enrollment in high school is viewed by many as one mechanism for increasing college admission and completion of low-income students. However, there has been little evidence to demonstrate that these students discretely benefit from dual enrollment and whether these programs narrow attainment gaps.

To examine the influence of dual enrollment on college degree attainment and whether these influences equally benefit all students or only high-SES students.


Key Finding
  • Dual enrollment positively influences college degree attainment, even after accounting for student, family, schooling achievements, and school context factors.
Additional Findings
  • The proportion of first-generation students (defined as those whose parents did not attend college) who attained any postsecondary degree is 8% higher if they participated in dual enrollment than not.
  • First-generation college students who participated in dual enrollment were more likely to attain a college degree than similar non-participants. Some evidence suggests that first-generation students were more likely to benefit from dual enrollment participation than those with a college-educated parent.
  • Gains were larger for those who took two courses in these programs. Little added benefit was found beyond six credits as incremental gains were at the earlier levels of credit accumulation.

Policy Implications/Recommendations:

    • While dual enrollment serves as a means to raise academic preparation for a wide range of students, these programs may especially benefit those lower in socioeconomic distribution.
    • Policies should not only focus on efforts to make equal participation rates across levels of parental education, but policies should also concentrate on targeting low-income students.  
    • Differential access, where first-generation students participate at greater rates than students from other family backgrounds, would further reduce parental education gaps.

    Research Design:
    Quantitative; propensity score matching models. Estimates of program effect made by matching dual enrolled participants with observationally equivalent nonparticipants.

    8,800 8th grade students who were followed over 12 years

    Year data is from:


    Data Collection and Analysis:
    Data from the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 was used to estimate the impact of dual enrollment on college degree attainment. Supplemental analyses were also used.


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