Expanding Dual Enrollment: Increasing Postsecondary Access for All?

Issue/Topic: Postsecondary; Postsecondary Participation--Access/Outreach
Author(s): Pretlow, Josh; Wathington, Heather
Organization(s): North Carolina State University
Publication: Community College Review
Published On: 10/31/2012

Although interest in dual enrollment has increased, there are few evidence-based studies that illustrate whether dual enrollment programs actually succeed in meeting their stated goals.

To investigate the dual enrollment outcomes associated with a 2005 policy change intended to expand dual enrollment participation in Virginia


Virginia's 2005 dual enrollment policy change included two provisions: 1) high schools had to inform all students of dual enrollment opportunities and 2) selected freshmen and sophomores were eligible to participate. The goal was to increase overall access to and participation in dual enrollment courses. However, the increase was not uniform and minority groups remained significantly underrepresented when compared with their representation in the general student population.

  • Although male participation increased in dual enrollment, they remained underrepresented in dual enrollment courses when compared with their percentage of all high school graduates.

  • Although the dual enrollment policy change resulted in increased participation for all students, it did not significantly decrease the participation gap among racial/ethnic groups of students.

    • While white students made up 64.3% of the 2006 graduation class, they accounted for 80.3% of dual enrollment students.

    • Black students made up 23.8% of the graduating class yet only 13.9% of dual enrollment students.

    • For Hispanic students, the corresponding figures were 5.5% and .41%, respectively.

  • Though similar total percentages of seniors who graduated in 2004 and 2006 enrolled in higher education, a higher percentage of students from the 2006 expanded access dual enrollment cohort immediately enrolled in higher education (58%) compared with the 2004 cohort (54%).

  • 15% of dual enrolled students did not enroll in college after six years.

  • Across cohorts, students who delayed in enrollment for both up to one year or up to four years and who enrolled in postsecondary education, disproportionally enrolled in a community college.

Policy Implications/Recommendations:
  • Targeting dual enrollment students while they are still in high school could increase the percentage of students who matriculate. Targeting this college ready group could have immediate implications for degree attainment.

  • As student demographics shift, developing avenues for minority students to participate in programs like dual enrollment is imperative.

  • Targeting students who took dual enrollment classes but did not enroll in college after high school graduation could provide economical ways to increase the percentage of the population who has a postsecondary credential.

  • Rather than assuming that students who participate in dual enrollment courses will matriculate, having a counselor from the community college visit dual enrollment classes may help nudge more students into higher education.

  • If states are going to achieve ambitious college attainment goals, increasing access to and participation in programs such as dual enrollment to all students, especially underrepresented students, is of the utmost importance.

Research Design:
Longitudinal survey

Virginia students who graduated high school in the spring of 2004, 2005 and 2006 and who enrolled in a minimum of one dual enrollment course as a high school senior.

Year data is from:


Data Collection and Analysis:
The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) collected information on: dual enrollment courses attempted and earned during high school, self-reported race/ethnicity, high school attended and the VCCS institution through which the dual enrollment credits were awarded. Data on postsecondary enrollment and course completion was also collected.


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