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State and national data indicate that Black and Hispanic students, low-income students, and students whose parents have lower levels of educational attainment are less likely than their peers to participate in dual-enrollment coursework. These inequities are troubling given the body of research demonstrating that, all other student academic and demographic characteristics being equal, dually enrolled students are substantially more likely than their peers to matriculate into college after high school and attain more postsecondary success benchmarks, including college completion.

Generally speaking, high school students must achieve the same minimum scores on placement exams as regularly matriculated college students to participate in dual-enrollment courses. Some states or programs also require dual-enrollment program applicants to earn a minimum score on a college entrance exam, a requirement that goes beyond the admissions requirements of public two-year institutions.

Public two-year colleges, which offer the overwhelming majority of dual-enrollment courses in the U.S., are increasingly opening access to college-level courses for students with lower scores on placement exams by offering extra academic support through corequisite courses. Could eliminating entry requirements and adding corequisite support to dual-enrollment courses allow more high school students to take a college-level course in English or math, including those traditionally underrepresented in dual enrollment?

Some dual enrollment programs already deliver courses using a corequisite model. When the Community College of Denver transitioned several years ago from a traditional developmental education approach to corequisite support for underprepared matriculated students, the college likewise made gateway courses with corequisite support available to dually enrolled students. CCD and Denver Public Schools staff spent a year working on curriculum alignment and arrived at the conclusion that students who had earned a B or higher in Algebra II or English III and had a cumulative 2.75 high school grade point average or higher were likely to be successful in gateway math or English courses without corequisite support. Students who fell short of the cumulative GPA or course grade cutoff but whose high schools felt they could succeed in college-level courses were placed into classes with corequisite support.

Potential Benefits of Corequisite Dual Enrollment

Given the research showing that low-income students and students of color tend to earn lower scores on college entrance and placement exams, corequisite support has the potential to serve as an important equity lever, as it diminishes or eliminates the barriers these exams pose to dual-enrollment access.

In addition, corequisite support increases the likelihood that dual-enrollment students will succeed in their college-level courses, especially those who enter less prepared. Students have additional time to spend mastering the subject matter as well as extra support tied to the content and assignments of a specific course. Depending on the approach used, students have the opportunity to preview material that will be covered in upcoming classes, receive help in planning and executing assignments, or engage in peer support.

Corequisite support could even enhance dual-enrollment course availability for college-ready students in high schools with smaller numbers of students deemed prepared for college-level coursework. For example, if a high school would like to offer college algebra but only five students meet the placement criteria, the school might be able to enroll 20 students by delivering the course in a corequisite model. In this instance, all 20 students could take the college algebra course with the corequisite content interwoven with the college-level content, or the 15 students deemed underprepared could receive corequisite support in a separate support course or lab.

In addition, corequisite support presents a simple solution to the challenges created by the discrepancy between many high schools’ five-day-a-week class schedule and most colleges’ two- or three-day-a-week course schedules. Under the corequisite model, students could participate in the college course as it would normally be offered two or three days a week, and the high school teacher could deliver supplemental support during the remaining two or three days each week.

Barriers to Corequisite Dual Enrollment

Before launching efforts to integrate corequisite support into dual-enrollment courses, stakeholders should be aware of a few barriers. A program accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships or seeking NACEP accreditation would be able to offer a dual-enrollment course with corequisite support only if the course as offered on campus also provided a corequisite support option for matriculated students. However, most colleges offering corequisite supports in the high school have already done so, with satisfactory results, at the college level.

Twenty-nine states prohibit dual-enrollment programs from offering non-credit-bearing coursework. What is more, multiple states prohibit the offering of remedial coursework by public four-year institutions or forbid public four-year institutions from using state funds to support remedial offerings. In such instances, an institution seeking to offer a dual-enrollment course through a corequisite model would need to integrate the corequisite content into the college-level course, offer corequisite support through a high school lab or course separate from the credit-bearing course, or absorb the expense of delivering a corequisite section or lab without state funding support.

State policy aside, in instances where the corequisite support and the college-level content are delivered by two instructors, they would need to communicate on an ongoing basis to ensure that the topics covered in each session of the college-level course synchronize with the topics addressed in the corequisite section. In addition, corequisite instructors—college staff and high school teachers alike—need appropriate training on the effective delivery of corequisite support to ensure corequisite sections provide meaningful support and don’t turn into study halls.

Despite the challenges, corequisite models have the potential to make dual enrollment a driver of more equitable success. Corequisite support is an equity-centered approach to addressing dual-enrollment access barriers created by traditional program-eligibility requirements. States and dual-enrollment partnerships should consider leveraging corequisite support as a strategy to advance equity in dual-enrollment course access and success.

Jennifer Zinth is a dual-enrollment researcher and consultant. Elisabeth A. Barnett is a senior research scholar emeritus at the Community College Research Center.

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