Education Letter to the Editor

Dual Enrollment Should Be ‘Invested in and Expanded’

October 25, 2016 2 min read

To the Editor:

The article “Are Dual-Enrollment Programs Being Oversold?” (Sept. 7, 2016) raises valid concerns about credit transfer from one institution of higher education to another, but misses the larger benefits of dual-enrollment programs and what we know makes them transformative for students.

Dual enrollment has expandeddramatically in recent years, and appropriate quality control is necessary. However, the difficulties in transferring credits between institutions are not limited to dual-enrollment courses. Even in states with established transfer agreements, college department chairs can deny credit toward a major, and agreements don’t necessarily cross state lines. Indeed, private colleges have discretion over which courses they accept at all. This is an issue with credits coming from any college, early or not.

Despite these issues with credits, we know what elements do work within the field of dual enrollment: structured courses of study leading to a degree or credential; robust student-support services, including counseling to help students navigate issues such as credit transfer; professors who have higher education credentials and experience and the training to teach younger students; and strong coordination between secondary and postsecondary partners.

Early-college high schools have these qualities, and numerous studies, including a randomized-control-trial evaluation conducted by the American Institutes for Research, have found significant increases in college enrollment and completion among early-college students.

That is the real promise and benefit of these models—the increased number of students, particularly from low-income families, enrolling in college and finishing their studies with a degree or credential on time or early—in addition to increased engagement in high school and increased affordability of college degrees when credits do transfer.

Credit transfer is certainly an issue, but it is an issue that must be addressed across higher education. It is not a reason to discredit or shy away from dual enrollment. Rather, dual-enrollment programs that follow proven practices, like early-college high schools, should be invested in and expanded.

Baird was formerly the vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.

Clara Haskell Botstein

Associate Vice President

Bard Early Colleges

New York, N.Y.

Rob Baird

Independent Education Consultant

Philadelphia, Pa.

A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2016 edition of Education Week as Dual Enrollment Should Be ‘Invested in and Expanded’