Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Boosting college access and degree attainment: Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to take for-credit college classes while still in high school. Such programs help students, especially from groups typically underrepresented in higher education, accumulate credit and gain exposure to the rigor of college academics.

  • Partnerships between high schools and colleges: Dual enrollment programs require an agreement between a high school and a college that allows high school students to take college courses for dual credit, simultaneously fulfilling high school graduation requirements and earning credits toward a postsecondary degree or credential.

  • Varied approaches to staffing and locating programs: The structure of dual enrollment programs can vary in terms of staffing and location, but the most common approach is to offer classes taught at the high school by either college instructors or high school teachers approved by the college. Less frequently, dual enrollment students will take courses from college instructors either on college campuses or online.

  • Setting eligibility criteria: Typically, dual enrollment programs are open to students in 9th through 12th grade, though various other eligibility criteria may apply, such as minimum grade point average; qualifying scores on a standardized test; or recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or principal.

  • Identifying funding for dual enrollment: While many programs are funded through a combination of state grants and school district or college resources, in some cases, students and their families bear a portion of the cost.

Cost per Participant
Not available

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that dual enrollment programs are a well-supported strategy for improving student achievement in high school and college.

  • A 2017 research synthesis found strong evidence that students in dual enrollment programs have higher rates of college enrollment, credit accumulation, and degree attainment, as well as higher levels of high school academic achievement and degree attainment, when compared to control group students.
  • Create a strong partnership between district and college: Successfully establishing and sustaining a dual enrollment program requires a strong partnership between the participating school district and college. Preparing a memorandum of understanding that outlines clear programmatic goals, identifies dedicated liaisons on both sides, and specifies key logistical information (e.g., how financial responsibility will be shared) can help strengthen the relationship between district and college.

  • Lower barriers to participation: Some students face barriers to accessing dual enrollment programs, like exclusionary admissions processes or issues with transportation or costs. Programs can expand access by replacing high-stakes placement tests with a holistic admissions process, providing students with transportation if courses are offered on a college campus, and reducing or eliminating tuition and fees.

  • Prepare students for college level work: Even students who have taken advanced coursework in high school can struggle to adjust to the different norms, rigor, and teaching style associated with college-level courses. To ease the transition, dual enrollment programs should acclimate students to college expectations, such as by providing an “introduction to college” course that teaches students about college resources, study skills, and more.

  • Hire and train staff for dual enrollment: In the dual enrollment model, college professors teach younger students and high school teachers teach more advanced material than they have been trained to deliver. Colleges can address this through dedicated professional development on the developmental needs of high school students or opportunities to observe instruction in a high school context. High school teachers, in turn, typically require a master’s degree and at least 18 credits in the subject they are teaching to be eligible to teach for-credit college courses.