ACT Launches Dual Enrollment Initiative

ACT released a new policy brief this week aimed at supporting state leaders in expanding access to dual enrollment programs for students. Prompted by the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the brief is based on a thorough analysis of current research and laws on dual enrollment programs.

Titled Using Dual Enrollment to Improve the Educational Outcomes for High School Students, the policy brief was written in conjunction with several prominent national education organizations and represents the launch of a multi-year commitment to the expansion and sustainable development of these programs. This initial effort includes an overview of dual enrollment outcomes research to date, four major policy recommendations, and example best model programs from various states.

Dual credit and concurrent enrollment programs (referred to jointly as dual enrollment) address critical needs in the postsecondary attainment process by shortening the time to degree completion and improving student's transition. Decreasing the cost of pursuing a degree and increasing degree attainment are valuable outcomes that are largely behind the 75 percent increase in dual enrollment participation over the last decade nationwide. However, the brief identifies that despite the growing interest, there are still issues surrounding access, quality, assessment and cost.

According to Scott Montgomery, vice president of policy, advocacy and government relations at ACT, "only one in 10 students from the poorest families take these courses, compared to one in four, on average, nationally." These are crucial factors to address as more state and the federal government look to expand on past program success.

The recommendations provided in the brief were made using a rubric designed to identify promising programs by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) which has been in use for a nearly a decade. The rubric groups thirteen model components into four categories: access, course quality, finance, and credit transferability. The four recommendations put forward by ACT and their partners in this brief address all but the last category of that rubric. Those recommendations are:

  • Develop funding mechanisms and nonmonetary incentives to encourage more equitable participation in dual enrollment programs.
  • Provide incentives for high school teachers wishing to teach in dual enrollment programs to obtain the academic degrees needed to teach at the college level.
  • Ensure that students are prepared to meet the challenge of dual enrollment coursework and that their progress is regularly monitored to keep them from potentially becoming overwhelmed.
  • In places where a postsecondary institution is not conveniently located, use online resources or other approaches to help ensure access to dual enrollment programs.

ACT released the report with strong language encouraging policymakers to pursue the changes recommended. Indicating that this is only the beginning of their efforts, Montgomery stated "[o]ur policy brief is the first of many steps we will take, with the assistance of several prominent national education organizations, to ensure all eligible students have the opportunity to take high-quality courses at minimal cost to them and their families."


Related Links

ACT Press Release