Dual Enrollment is a program that allows high school students to enroll in and receive credit for courses at local colleges entirely free of charge, while simultaneously earning their high school diplomas. Many may think that it only provides the highest achieving high-school students with an additional challenge, and perhaps to give them a leg up in the college application process.
While this was once the case, dual enrollment is rapidly expanding to provide opportunities to students from all walks of life and ability-levels to experience college before they’ve even graduated from high school. Students from low-income backgrounds, non-English speaking homes, or families with no previous college experience, can gain the most from the experience.
Rebecca Holcombe, the Vermont Secretary of Education and an advocate for dual enrollment, says, “Affordability is key. And what we’re seeing in our country is this widening gap between the people who have the resources to meet that transition and those who don’t.”
Dual enrollment is proving to be a driving force in helping underserved students to not only enroll, but to succeed in higher education in higher numbers by providing them with a flexible path.
Christine Plunkett, the President of Burlington College, captured the crux of the matter when she testified for the expansion of the program in Vermont. She argued that “for students worn out on high school, dual enrollment is a way to provide greater challenges in a more stimulating environment; for technical high school students, dual enrollment and early college provide the financial incentive of lowering overall college costs, a very real concern for most Vermont families; and for students whose families have never attended college, dual enrollment is a critical way to provide early access to and success with higher education.”
The program is ultimately acting as a bridge for students who may otherwise not even consider college, let alone make it to graduation. The Community College Research Center at Columbia University recently completed a study, finding students involved with the dual enrollment were not only more likely to graduate from high school than similar students who did not participate, but were more likely to enroll and stay in a four-year college program as well.
If the program continues to succeed as it has, it will be increasingly clear that these programs have a positive impact not only on the individuals participating, but on the state as a whole.