What Is Dual Enrollment?
While the meaning of dual enrollment can vary slightly depending on the circumstances, this learning method lets high school students take college courses and high school courses at the same time. The main benefit of dual enrollment is the fact that the courses count at both the high school and collegiate level, so students can work toward earning their high school diploma and college degree simultaneously.
There are myriad benefits students can gain from dual enrollment, including the chance for students to get some of their college credit out of the way before heading off to college. From there, having college credit lets students pay for fewer required courses at the college level, and it can help them finish their degree program on an accelerated timeline.
Other benefits of dual enrollment include getting the chance to build skills that are needed in the workforce early on and having the opportunity to explore certain interests, career fields, and majors. Students who earn dual enrollment credit can also build better study habits early on, which can benefit them once they enroll in a traditional college or university.
Where a student lives can bolster their chances of benefitting from dual enrollment, as some states have passed legislation that improves or broadens access to dual enrollment opportunities.
Generally speaking, dual enrollment can be an option in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, although requirements can vary. Here's an overview of the key points you should know about dual enrollment options and opportunities nationwide:
In total, 48 states and Washington D.C. have instituted their own dual enrollment policies that vary in scope and intent.
Further, 28 states have more than one dual enrollment program, and 27 states require secondary and/or postsecondary partners to notify students and parents of their dual enrollment options.
Dual enrollment programs in 41 states have instituted their own student eligibility criteria, such as grade level requirements, entrance requirements, and recommendation requirements from a school official.
By and large, this means that the availability of dual enrollment classes can depend on a student's academic standing and whether teachers who meet applicable state requirements are available. Also, it's important to note that the dual enrollment classes offered in your area can vary by school district, although they tend to center around general education requirements for college. For example, college credit courses in high school typically encompass subjects like English, humanities, science, and social studies.
The cost of dual enrollment can also vary since some states fund their own dual enrollment programs. Obviously, having the chance to earn college credit for free is a big incentive for eligible students.
What if My School Doesn’t Offer Dual Enrollment?
There may be scenarios where a high school doesn't offer the chance to earn dual credit, or the courses offered do not align with the student's interests. In this case, students may have the option to participate in dual enrollment options offered online.
As mentioned above, virtual dual enrollment options can vary widely based on where a student lives. In the state of Indiana, for example, a program called Indiana Online partners with a community college called Ivy Tech in order to offer online dual enrollment courses to students. However, students have to meet minimum college admission requirements to enroll, such as having a minimum ACT score and filling out a free application for admission into a community college.
Another option when traditional dual enrollment isn't offered comes in the form of advanced placement classes (also known as AP classes). Students can complete AP classes during high school, and they also count as college credit.
CollegeBoard data also shows that nearly all colleges and universities nationwide accept AP classes and extend college credit accordingly. CollegeBoard even offers an online tool that lets you search schools based on AP credit acceptance.
If you're not quite up-to-date on various higher education terminology, you should know there are several important differences between dual credit classes and AP classes. The chart below highlights how both of these college-level courses work, as well as how they can benefit students who are preparing for the realities of higher education.
Dual Enrollment vs. AP Classes
What Colleges Accept Dual Enrollment Credits?
Fortunately, dual enrollment colleges are easy to find since most universities accept college credits earned through dual enrollment programs completed in high school. There are some exceptions, however. For example, Ivy League Schools are considerably less likely to accept credit from dual enrollment classes. Some state schools also fail to accept dual enrollment credit as well, so make sure to check with the schools you're interested in if you are considering dual enrollment.
Best Classes To Take for Dual Enrollment
The best classes to take for dual enrollment vary depending on the student. After all, taking college credit courses during high school is a great way for students to learn about different careers and industries they may want to pursue. In the meantime, students also have to pick from available dual credit courses at their school, which tend to vary based on the school district and chosen curriculum.
That said, most students can benefit from taking general education courses they'll need for their college degree anyway. In fact, completing introductory courses in subjects like math, English, and history is an excellent way to ease into higher education and graduate college faster.
Is Dual Enrollment Worth It?
Dual enrollment can definitely be worth the effort, and that's especially true if it's subsidized or covered entirely by a school system or state government. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of dual credit below, and how they might apply to your situation.
Students can save money on their college degree. Dual enrollment courses can be free or deeply discounted for students, and they almost always cost less than taking a similar course at college. As a result, earning college credit during high school can significantly reduce the costs of higher education.
Taking college courses during high school can help you graduate faster. Dual enrollment courses let students accelerate their degree programs and graduation date. This means getting the chance to enter the workforce and begin earning an income sooner rather than later.
Discover new careers and industries. Dual enrollment lets students experiment with subjects and courses before they are pressured to choose a college major. This can lead to saving both time and money down the line.
Dual enrollment courses offered in high school aren't necessarily easy. Dual enrollment courses are real college courses, and they will go on a student's permanent record. Make sure you or your child are ready for college-level courses before you enroll. It can be challenging to know if a student is ready based on grades alone. Sometimes, intelligent students are struggling with their grades due to the restrictive environment of high school. If they have the maturity to take on more freedom and responsibility, college classes may still be a good fit, allowing them to turn their grades around early.
Some schools do not accept credit earned through dual enrollment programs. While acceptance is fairly broad, there's a small chance that the college or university you want to attend will not accept dual enrollment credit.
Balancing high school and college courses with extracurriculars can be a challenge. Balancing school work with sports and other activities can be challenging enough already, and adding college level coursework to the mix may be too much for some students.
If you're considering dual enrollment for yourself or a dependent, it makes sense to see what your options are as soon as you can. Not only can dual enrollment help students save money on college and graduate faster, but it can help strengthen a college application.
That said, it never hurts to compare other options outside of traditional dual enrollment, including online dual credit courses or AP classes offered by your school. Anything you can do now to make college less expensive or less time-consuming later on is likely to be a net positive. By researching and comparing all your options, you can make an informed decision.