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Dual Enrollment Has Little Effect on Postsecondary Matriculation in Kentucky, Study Finds

April 10, 2006

Increasingly states are making it easier for high school students to participate in college courses while still attending high school. The goal of dual enrollment is to encourage more students to attend college, giving them a leg up on a degree. A new report by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education suggests the efforts are not working in Kentucky. Encouraging dual enrollment programs to provide academic rather than technical coursework may increase the matriculation rates of dually enrolled students, though.

Dual enrollment has doubled in Kentucky over the last five years. However, findings of a recent study examining dual enrollment data between 2001-02 and 2004-05 indicate that dual credit programs do not appear to enhance overall college matriculation rates.

According to the study, these rates vary among those students taking academic courses and those taking occupational courses. While students who took academic courses did matriculate at slightly higher rates than the overall high school population, the majority of students who took technical and occupational courses matriculated at low rates. Other findings include:

  • Four out of every 10 students dually enrolled in 2003-04 took only technical and occupational courses, while one in five chose to take academic courses.
  • Overall, 32 percent of dual enrollers had matriculated into regular postsecondary study in the year after they were dually enrolled. Of those students who dually enrolled in 2001-02, 57 percent had matriculated into regular postsecondary study by 2004-05.
  • As the numbers of dual enrollment students has increased over the past few years, their one-year matriculation rate has dropped from 38 percent in 2001-02 to 29 percent in 2003-04. This drop may be due in part to increases in the number of high school juniors and other underclassman taking dual enrollment courses, but it may also reflect a real drop in matriculation rates among these students.

The study also looked at the impact of dual enrollment on postsecondary GPA and retention. These variables were examined with the effect of the students' ACT composite scores factored out statistically. According to the findings, "Independent of differences in ACT scores, dual enrollment has a modest, positive effect on GPA at the end of the sophomore year, increasing students' GPA by about one-third of a letter grade." However, dual enrollment is found to have no independent effect on retention, the study finds.

On a national level, the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) found that during the 2002-03 school year, about 813,000 or roughly 5 percent of high school students across the U.S. participated in dual enrollment. Of the schools that offered courses for dual credit on a high school campus or on the campus of a postsecondary institution, 92 percent indicated that the courses had an academic focus, and 51 percent reported that the courses had a technical or vocational focus. The study did not measure matriculation.

The Dual Enrollment of High School Students in Postsecondary Education in Kentucky, 2001-02 to 2004-05 is available at: http://cpe.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/702585EF-B63B-4D77-9E44-C4CE5C5FF21B/0/DualEnrollmentinKentucky306.pdf

The NCES report, Dual Enrollment of High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2002-03, is available at: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005008.pdf

Links to these papers and nearly 4,000 additional TBED-related research reports, strategic plans and other papers can be found at the Tech-based Economic Development (TBED) Resource Center, jointly developed by the Technology Administration and SSTI, at http://www.tbedresourcecenter.org/.