Press Release: Dual Credit Access for High School Students Unequal, Research Says

by OCCRL / Oct 31, 2013

(Champaign, Ill.) – Research released today that examines high schools’ dual credit participation rates shows that high school students’ access to college-level credit, called dual credit or dual enrollment, partially depends on the high school they attend.

The study was released in a brief by Illinois Education Research Council (IERC) at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and conducted jointly by Dr. Eric Lichtenberger from IERC and Dr. Jason Taylor, a researcher from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It is important to understand which high schools offer students accelerated options via dual credit and dual enrollment because the accumulating evidence shows that when students participate in these accelerated options, they have increased access to college and decreased time to degree completion,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the researchers aimed to determine differences in high schools’ dual credit participation rates and determine how high school characteristics were related to schools’ dual credit participation rates

In order to do this, Taylor said the researchers conducted the study using a longitudinal database that included one complete Illinois public high school graduating class in 2003. Dual credit participation was tracked throughout high school enrollment, though most of it occurred during the junior and senior years.

The study found that high school dual credit participation rates ranged from 0 percent to 88 percent and that students’ access to dual credit is partially dependent on a high school’s geographic location and the composition of the student body, Lichtenberger said.

“High schools in towns or rural areas, as well as high schools in the central and southern parts of Illinois, had higher dual credit participation rates relative to other areas, namely Chicago” Lichtenberger said.

The study concluded that high schools with the largest share of students participating in dual credit tended to excel on other measures of academic performance, in addition to measures of student attendance and graduation. The researchers also found that schools with higher rates of dual credit participation had larger proportions of white students and smaller proportions of low-income students.

“It is important to recognize these results are descriptive and we are pursuing additional inferential analyses with these data. We also know that dual credit participation in Illinois has expanded dramatically since 2003, so we are planning an analysis with more recent data,” Taylor said. “Nevertheless, these data suggest there are large inequities in students access to college courses.”

Taylor and Lichtenberger will be presenting these results at the Lt. Governor’s Scaling Up: Effective Practices in Higher Education Conference in Normal on October 31.

The report is available on the IERC website at