College in High School Alliance: Increase in College Enrollment

by Jessica Perkins | September 19, 2017
College in High School Alliance: Increase in College Enrollment

Have you heard of the College in High School Alliance (CHSA)? It’s a coalition of schools, school networks, and advocacy groups that advocate for policies supporting high-quality dual enrollment programs. Last week, we attended a CHSA panel to learn how dual enrollment programs lead to an increase in college enrollment. In particular, case studies were discussed and the benefits of implementing a dual enrollment program at institutions were explored.

What are dual enrollment programs?

Dual enrollment programs (AKA concurrent enrollment or early college programs) allow high school students to earn college credits while still in high school.  In other words, these programs offer college courses at a discounted price, or for free when funds are available. By replicating the college environment, high school students can earn up to two years of college credits at a much lower cost. In some cases, students have even earned an Associate’s Degree for free through dual enrollment programs.

Are dual enrollment programs effective?

Research shows that dual enrollment programs are a powerful way to help underrepresented students by boosting college access and degree attainment. In February, What Works Clearinghouse released a report on the positive outcomes of dual enrollment programs found by five approved studies. The studies support program outcomes such as increased postsecondary degree attainment, increased college access & enrollment, increased college credit accumulation, higher rates of high school graduation, and increased general academic achievement in high school.

How do higher education institutions implement dual enrollment programs?

There’s a lot of variety in how colleges and universities set up dual enrollment programs. Take a look at Pennsylvania College of Technology’s dual enrollment program, called Penn College NOW. Notably, 98% of these high school students achieved college standards on their final exams in 2016.

Furthermore, the Penn College NOW program has measured dramatic increases in student enrollment and matriculation rates. Since 2013, the program enrollment has increased more than threefold, from 352 in 2013-2014 to 1234 students in 2015-2016. To point out, in the 2015-2016 school year, 32.57% of program participants matriculated to the college.

At Career Education Center’s Middle College Program in Colorado, the average student graduates with 37 college credits, with an average GPA of 2.9 – far above statewide averages.

What are the benefits of dual enrollment for higher education institutions?

Certainly, the benefits for high schools are clear. Their students perform better and are more likely to enroll in and complete a college degree. But what are the benefits for higher education institutions? Who often provide these courses at a discounted rate or for free?

At the CHSA panel, Joel Vargas, Vice President of Jobs for the Future, encouraged higher education institutions to rethink dual enrollment programs. Institutions should shift their thinking of dual enrollment programs as “on the side” programs. Instead, they should think of them as a central strategy for improving matriculation and persistence.

Additionally, dual enrollment programs are an excellent way for institutions to:

  1. Attract students to your school,
  2. Smooth the path to matriculation for students who are typically underrepresented in higher education, and
  3. Prepare future students for the college experience to ensure that they graduate.

Special thanks to the College in High School Alliance for hosting the panel on improving college success, and to Paul Watson at the Pennsylvania College of Technology for sharing information regarding their Penn College NOW program.

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