Accelerating Pathways to College: The In(Equitable) Effects of Community College Dual Credit

by Jason L. Taylor / Jul 29, 2015

I’ve previously written about dual credit/dual enrollment in regard to my work with OCCRL’s Dual Credit Funding Models study and the New Directions for Community Colleges volume on dual enrollment policies. My most recent article highlights key findings on dual credit from my dissertation, Accelerating Pathways to College: The (In)Equitable Effects of Community College Dual Credit. In Illinois, dual credit refers to college courses taken by high school students that are administratively facilitated between a college and a high school. In this article, I examined the effect of dual credit policies on students’ likelihood of enrolling in college and completing college. In particular, I examined how these outcomes vary for students of color and low-income students, because, as I argue in the article, it is critical that policies not only have a cumulative positive effect but also have positive effects for students historically underserved and underrepresented in higher education.

So what do the results show? Using propensity score matching, a quasi-experimental design, I found that students who participate in dual credit are 34% more likely to enroll in college and 22% more likely to complete college compared to similar students who did not participate in dual credit. I found similar effects for sub-samples of low-income students and students of color. However, I found a 4- to 8-percentage-point gap in the probability of enrolling in college and completing college between the average effect and the effect for students of color and low-income students. In other words, although all students benefit from dual credit policies, the benefits are not equally distributed, and thus existing policies are not equitable.

So what are the implications of these results? First, they support several other studies in other state contexts that find dual credit and dual enrollment programs have a positive effect on important college outcomes such as college enrollment and completion. More importantly, they point to concerning inequities and raise questions about how state dual credit policies and local programs might better support low-income students and students of color as they transition to college. There are several examples of local programs, such as Early and Middle College High School programs, and state policies, such as Michigan’s Enhanced Dual Enrollment program, that not only enroll students in a college course but also provide more comprehensive support structures to facilitate students’ transition to and success in college, particularly for underserved populations.

Please share how your local dual credit programs are designed to support the success of low-income students and students of color!

Jason L. Taylor is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah. He received his Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a research specialization in evaluation methods and concentration in public policy. His broad research interests are at the intersection of community college and higher education policy and educational and social inequality. Dr. Taylor has conducted and led several quantitative and mixed methods studies related to college readiness, developmental education, adult pathways to college, dual credit/enrollment and early college experiences, transfer policy and reverse transfer, LGBTQ students and educational access and equity. He is currently the Co-PI with Dr. Debra Bragg and co-leading the research agenda for the Credit When It’s Due initiative, a 15-state effort to develop and implement reverse transfer programs and policies.