Dual enrollment programs

Program basics

  • Allows students to take for-credit college classes while still in high school
  • Helps prepare students for the academic and social challenges of undergraduate education
  • Aim to increase college enrollment and overall degree attainment
  • Some programs offer tuition discounts, reducing barriers to post-secondary education

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)

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Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by the U.S. Department of Education What Works Clearinghouse


Target population

High school-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

1990s-present

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased degree attainment
  • Increased college enrollment
  • Increased credit accumulation
  • Increased high school completion

Keys to successful implementation

  • Partner with high schools, as well as two- and four-year colleges, to identify and evaluate appropriate, rigorous courses for program participants to accumulate college-level credits.
  • Conduct broad, widespread recruitment efforts, encouraging students of all backgrounds and most levels of academic achievement to apply.
  • Collaborate with state and local leaders to ensure that both the high schools and colleges offering program courses receive funding for a student’s enrollment, thus creating a more sustainable program over the long term.
  • When resources allow, incorporate on-site college courses taught by a university instructor, rather than a college-level course designed for high school students, into program.
  • Incorporate traditional college preparation services into the program, such as admissions and financial aid application assistance.
  • Prioritize offering courses that clearly apply to a postsecondary course of study leading to a degree or credential, including university core requirements like English and math, as well as career and technical training.
  • Consider developing incentive programs for schools or districts that have high participation rates in dual enrollment programs, such as recognizing the achievement or offering some form of reward.

Similar programs

Resources