Maximizing the potential of dual enrollment

Three female students walking

Dual enrollment works. It’s been around for decades, and it’s grown immensely: the number of students taking part tripled between 2001 and 2021. There’s strong evidence that dual enrollment can improve high school completion and college enrollment rates, and even college completion rates. In an era of skepticism about the value of higher education, dual enrollment can be an antidote: It can absolutely save students time and cost to a degree.

But we haven't quite cracked the code on making dual enrollment work for a broader slice of the student population, particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds. Historically, dual enrollment has too often been a “program of privilege”—and courses are too often randomly selected, without alignment to a postsecondary credential with labor market value.

This is the untapped potential of dual enrollment. These opportunities are key to our work: Both expanding access to dual enrollment and making sure that dual enrollment pathways are high-quality and college/career-aligned.

With our partners in the field, we want dual enrollment to:

  • help students find paths that resonate with them,
  • allow students to start building towards their futures,
  • and expand equity and inclusion in higher ed.

We have the privilege of working with state-based groups like the Career Ladders Project and the Public Policy Institute of California as well as national researchers like the Community College Research Center at Columbia University (CCRC) to learn how that might be accomplished. With this resource, we want to share one way that we’ve aggregated the core knowledge that these partners have shared publicly over the years.

Check out the learning deck here.

Images of Dual Enrollment Deck

We hope that this resource can help you learn about the evidence behind dual enrollment and the open questions about how to make sure it becomes the most effective and equitable tool possible. We have used versions of this deck to onboard new colleagues, to make the case for putting attention and resources toward dual enrollment, and to inform discussions about our own strategies.

Dual enrollment can take many forms; this deck covers four foundational design elements: credit momentum, structure and focus, instructional delivery models, and integrated supports. When all four aspects are optimized, high-quality dual enrollment can help students view and advance toward their future in more concrete terms. Most high school students aspire to go to college—but doubts creep in. Is it worth it? Can I afford it? Will I make it? Many also prioritize work experience and on-the-job training, which they may see as a divergent path from going to college. Dual enrollment can show them how what they're learning in high school ties directly to their future career goals, give students a taste of college, and help them see themselves as “college material.” (Not to mention the head start on credits and cost savings.) Dual enrollment can be the confidence-booster and momentum-builder needed to get students to enroll in education after high school—which data shows gives them the best chance of landing a good job.

Dual enrollment shouldn’t just open doors; students need to be actively invited to and through those doors. Access—making sure students know this opportunity is for them, giving them confidence in their ability to succeed—plus quality equals powerful, equitable dual enrollment.

We hope this deck serves as a useful resource as you learn about and share how to maximize the power of dual enrollment.

Additional resources

To learn more about how institutions and leaders are maximizing dual enrollment as a powerful momentum-builder for the students that need it most, explore: