Results from Illinois Dual Credit Funding Survey

by Jason L. Taylor and Debra Bragg / Sep 16, 2014

Policymakers and consumers are laser-focused on affordable college completion, and dual credit is one pathway for students to accelerate their progress toward college completion in a potentially affordable way. A new survey of the Illinois Community College system shows that dual credit funding policies vary widely among community colleges. Illinois’ policy essentially leaves dual credit funding and finance decisions to local decision-makers, resulting in many colleges offering dual credit at little or no cost, but others charging students partial or even full tuition. Here are a few data points from the survey: 

  • Tuition for a 3-credit hour dual credit course ranges from $0-$410 among Illinois community colleges
  • 50% of colleges reported that their community college charges tuition and/or fees for dual credit courses
  • 61% of colleges reported that students are responsible for paying for books and course materials for dual credit courses
  • One quarter of colleges reported that the college has arrangements with partner high schools that involve the transaction of funding among the two sectors (e.g., high school pays college application fee, college pays high school instructor stipends, etc.)

Ironically, respondents from colleges charging dual credit tuition reported greater concerns about the cost of dual credit tuition for low-income students than those colleges that subsidize dual credit tuition. These results offer insights into the financing of dual credit among community colleges in Illinois that will be the focus of conversation among state and local decision-makers.  The variance in funding policies surfaces inequities for high school students who, depending on the community college district in which their high school is located, may or may not have access to affordable college courses.

We encourage you to share your knowledge of dual credit financing policy.  Do these policies vary in your region or in your state?  What are your thoughts about policy variation within a state?  What recommendations do you have to ensure dual credit is affordable and accessible to all learners?

Jason L. Taylor is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah and a Faculty Affiliate at OCCRL.

Debra Bragg, OCCRL director and endowed professor at Illinois, researches the transition to college by youth and adults, especially student populations that have not attended college historically.