DataPoints: Dual enrollment and postsecondary outcomes


Dual enrolment (high school students taking college courses) has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Some community colleges report that more than half of their students are still enrolled in high school. However, data have suggested that access and success of students in dual-enrollment programs is not necessarily equitable.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released data that followed students who were in ninth grade in fall 2009 through June 2021. These data allow researchers to track student experiences and outcomes over this 12-year period, including the use of dual enrollment by these students.

This “First Release” report only provides limited information on dual enrollment but does offer a glimpse into how these ninth-graders in 2009 used dual enrolment and some of their outcomes. Overall, 60.4% of all 2009 high school students in the sample attained some form of postsecondary credential (7.9% a postsecondary certificate or diploma; 9.9% an associate degree; 35.4% a bachelor’s degree; and 7.4% a graduate degree as their highest credential). The report provided a percentage of students who have ever dual enrolled by their postsecondary credential attainment status.

Students who have attained a postsecondary credential of any sort were more likely to have been dual enrolled while in high school — 17.3% for students with no postsecondary credential attainment versus 32.6% for students with a postsecondary attainment. However, the use of dual enrolment varied by income level of families and the student’s race or ethnicity.

About 35.5% of White students who went on to attain a postsecondary credential had availed themselves of dual enrollment, while only 26.8% of Hispanic and 26.8% of Black students did so. For students who did not attain a postsecondary credential, 22.7% of White students were ever dual enrolled, but only 12.4% of Black students and 12.5% of Hispanic students were ever dual enrolled.

Taking dual enrollment also varied by family income in 2011 for these students. Except for the top income category (family income over $115,000), participation in dual enrollment increased by income for students who did not attain a postsecondary credential, from 14.5% for income below $35,000, to 23.2% for incomes between $75,000 and $115,000.

Students who attained a postsecondary credential were more likely to have taken dual enrollment across all income categories than those who did not attain, and there was less of a relationship between income and dual-enrollment participation, though students with family incomes between $75,000 and $115,000 were most likely to have participated in dual enrollment.

About the Author

Kent Phillippe
Kent Phillippe is vice president for research and student success at the American Association of Community Colleges.
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