"Dual enrollment" programs -- in which high school students take college courses while they are still in high school, sometimes taught at the high school and at other times at colleges -- have traditionally been thought of as a way to provide extra enrichment for the most talented students, those who are clearly college-bound.
But a report released Thursday argues that there is another population that stands to benefit from these programs: students who are at risk of not going to college at all. In fact, the report argues that such programs are already having notable successes, and that dual enrollment can be designed to benefit both groups of students.
"Dual enrollment programs have the potential to result in substantial benefits for high school students and their families, particularly for those who may not appear college bound," says the report, "On Ramp to College," which was released by the group Jobs for the Future. "The promise of free of low-cost college credit, combined with the opportunity to compress the time needed to earn a degree, can motivate young people to perform well enough to become eligible."
In addition, the report suggests that such dual enrollment programs may have a better chance at motivating disadvantaged students than do Advanced Placement programs, which rely for credit on "a single, high-stakes test" of the sort that may be intimidating to many students.
While results of some programs that encourage dual enrollment for such students are positive, the report notes that such options are least likely to be available in high schools with high populations of disadvantaged or minority students. As a result, the report urges states to adopt an "equity agenda" that would not only assure the quality of dual enrollment programs (an important goal for those that serve the highly achieving students too) but would also make sure that all students who could benefit have the option of doing so.
The City University of New York's College Now program was cited as an example of the sort of effort that should be widespread. College Now gives students at participating public high schools in New York City the chance to take credit courses and college prep courses at various CUNY campuses.
Matthew Goldstein, CUNY's chancellor, said in a press briefing Thursday that the program is a "poster child" for the dual enrollment concept. In the last seven years, he said, more than 180,000 students have participated, and more than 35,000 have subsequently matriculated in the CUNY system. Many of those students might not otherwise have enrolled or might not otherwise have passed placement tests for college-level work.
What College Now shows, Goldstein said, was that "it is possible to provide high quality opportunities" and then to "scale up" such programs.