Gaps remain in dual enrollment participation

Gaps remain in dual enrollment participation

(District of Columbia) As high schools throughout the country strive to offer students more access to college-level courses, white and Asian students remain the primary beneficiaries of such classes.

Following high school freshman from 2009 through 2013, researchers at the National Center for Education Statistics found that while about a third of students overall took courses for postsecondary credit in high school, the odds were skewed heavily in favor of students from affluent families.

Additionally, researchers found that that vast majority of students who did take dual enrollment courses did so at their own high school or at a nearby college campus. Therefore, students attending schools where such classes weren’t offered or those who didn’t live near a postsecondary institution were far less likely to enroll.

Opening up different avenues to take college-level courses could benefit many of those students, they said.

“Though many students take dual enrollment courses at their high school or on a college campus, providing such courses online or at other, regional high schools may increase access for students who do not live near a postsecondary institution,” authors of the whitepaper wrote.

Research has shown that students who complete dual enrollment programs in their junior or senior years are more likely to graduate high school on time, enroll in college and earn their degree–particularly among minority and low-income students, whose families are able avoid at least a portion of skyrocketing tuition costs.

And reports from the U.S. Department of Education also show a decrease in the number of incoming college freshmen in need of remedial classes, as such coursework reduces high school dropout rates and increases student aspirations by helping low-achieving students meet high academic standards.

With that in mind, many states have pushed to provide more students with the opportunity to get a jumpstart on their postsecondary degree in recent years. Some, including Delaware and California, have increased state funding to allow more juniors and seniors in high school to enroll in local community colleges for free or by paying reduced fees.

Others, like Washington, have encouraged local school boards to adopt policies that automatically enroll students who meet the proficiency standard on the high school statewide student assessment in the next most rigorous level of AP courses offered by the high school. Additionally, low-income students can take the end-of-year AP tests at a reduced cost.

Students who take AP courses can take the corresponding exams in May, with results landing on a scale from 1 to 5. Passing means achieving a score of 3 or higher, which typically qualifies for college credit.

While participation in college credit-bearing coursework has increased in recent years due to those kinds of efforts, researchers found there is still a ways to go.

The latest report used data collected from more than 23,000 ninth-graders starting in 2009 through 2013.

Researchers found that 34 students took courses for postsecondary credit in high school–but when broken down by subgroup, there were significant gaps in participation.

Only 27 percent of black students took courses for postsecondary credit in high school, followed by 30 percent of Hispanic students, and 38 percent of white and Asian students.

Students whose parents had higher levels of education were also more likely to take dual enrollment courses. Only 26 percent of students whose parents’ hadn’t earned a high school diploma took these courses, compared to42 percent of students whose parents had earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Meanwhile, among those students who did take college credit-bearing coursework, researchers noted 80 percent took those courses at their own high school. About 17 percent took the classes on a nearby college campus, while only 8 percent took them online, and 6 percent travelled to a different high school where the courses were offered.

What location students most often took those courses often depended largely upon where they lived.

The study showed that students in city schools more commonly took these courses on a college campus, at a rate of 26 percent, compared to just 11 percent of those enrolled in rural or suburban high schools. At the same time, students in rural schools more commonly took these courses online–at 12 percent–compared to suburban students at 5 percent.

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