• Confessions of a Community College Dean

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Dual Enrollment and State Lines

What should the rules be?

June 28, 2022

A new report from the Education Commission of the States offers food for thought in comparing ground rules for dual-enrollment programs in different states. It’s worth checking out.

The question that immediately drew my attention was about whether a given state allows out-of-state providers to participate in dual-enrollment programs in its public high schools. According to the report, more states don’t allow that than do, but many states don’t have rules on it one way or the other. (If you prefer, they allow it by not disallowing it.)

My own state doesn’t have much in the way of statewide rules on dual enrollment at this point. It also has a deep tradition of home rule, with small school districts competing with each other for students. Combine an incentive to distinguish one school from another with a relative absence of rules, and you get a panoply of bespoke arrangements across the state.

They aren’t just with community colleges, either. Public and private four-year schools routinely compete in the dual-enrollment space, including some from out of state. Frustratingly, a few of the wealthier ones offer dual-enrollment credits as loss leaders, making it difficult for the locally supported community college to compete.

The argument for laissez-faire is straightforward enough: competition should provide both a greater range of options and better deals. Of course, that assumes a critical mass of savvy consumers at each school, which may or may not be the case. The argument for a more restrictive approach boils down to quality control and the ability to build stable advising relationships over time.

Wise and worldly readers, assuming that the states that haven’t defined a position start to do so, which position would you recommend, and why? (Per usual, I can be reached on email at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter @deandad.) Thanks!

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