High school students have different options when it comes to earning college credits, including a dual enrollment program, AP courses and the International Baccalaureate program. Dual enrollment is a popular choice because students work on earning a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree while they complete the high school graduation requirements. Earning college credits will cut down the number of years spent on attending college because the associate’s degree will be credited as the first two years of a four-year undergraduate program. In effect, total costs needed to earn a college degree such as tuition, books and living expenses will be reduced. However, the program may not be the most feasible option for all students.
Limited Courses Offered
Some high schools offer the dual enrollment courses at their own campus, bringing in college professors to teach the classes. This makes it easier for students to attend participate as part of their high school routine. This arrangement may limit the number of courses available to students when the high school is unable to hire teachers qualified to teach college-level classes. Limited classes and limited slots in these classes may make it difficult for students to complete all the courses for the associate’s degree and high school requirements as well.
Premature Exposure to the College Environment
Some schools give the students the option to attend dual enrollment classes at the college campus. Many college prep advocates consider this a beneficial situation that would give high school students a taste of college life. However, not all high school students are prepared to work alongside much older young adults in college. High school kids may feel intimidated, which would affect their class performance and their experience.
Limited Acceptance of all Course Credits
Not all colleges award credits for dual enrollment courses. For those that do so, credits may not be granted on a one-to-one basis such that two years of college work may be reduced to the equivalent of one year of college credits. Some of the Ivy League and other top-tier colleges will only consider AP classes for college credits and only if the student earns a satisfactory score in the corresponding AP subject tests.
Attendance at Collaborating College
The dual enrollment program is a collaboration between the high school and a local college. Credits earned in this program will be recognized and credited fully only if students attend the colleges designated as program partners. These partner colleges are usually smaller community, state or private colleges within the area, which may not be where many adventurous students plan to be after high school graduation.
Demographic Inequities Among Participants
The dual enrollment program was envisioned as a pathway to higher education for high school students who may not otherwise have the motivation to pursue college. However, various studies conducted by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships found that dual enrollees were predominantly female, high-achieving and highly motivated students. Participation by economically disadvantaged students of color was significantly lower, suggesting that advocates need to address barriers to inclusion such as direct costs and incidental expenses. Direct costs refer to books and materials that may not be subsidized in all schools while incidentals consist of transportation costs to attend classes on college campuses.
Dual enrollment is a strategic pathway to college. It is an opportunity to earn college credits while attending high school with subsidized tuition, resulting in significant savings on obtaining a college education. Benefits are fully maximized when students commit to attending the partner college to complete a four-year degree.