My recent article about the growth of dual enrollment programs left me wondering why there is a wide variability by state with the percentage of high school students earning college credits. The National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships Fast Facts reported that 34% of U.S. high school students take college courses.
NACEP listed five states that exceeded the national average. These are: Indiana – 58%, Iowa – 56.8%, Idaho – 57%, Minnesota – 42.8%, and Colorado – 38.2%. I decided to look at data published by those states to see if there is an obvious reason for their success.
Indiana Dual Credit Programs
Indiana provides a well-organized site explaining Dual Credit. The state offers two crosswalks of high school classes to college courses. Liberal Arts Crosswalk lists six high school courses that provide college credit for Appreciation of Literature, Brief Calculus, Calculus II, Human Biology, Macroeconomics, and Microeconomics.
Indiana’s dual credit website notes that the Liberal Arts Crosswalk is not an exclusive list of courses but includes the courses that the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (ICHE) and Statewide Transfer and Articulation Committee (STAC) have approved.
The website reports that students cannot be charged more than $25 per college credit and public colleges (only) receive additional funding. Low-income students do not have to pay for credit. In addition, Ivy Tech Community College waives tuition for all students.
Indiana also offers a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Crosswalk. The list of courses is contained in an Excel spreadsheet and is much more extensive than the liberal arts crosswalk.
Indiana provides a report tracking the participation of its students in dual credit and early college programs. The most recent report, Indiana Early College Credit Report 2021, indicates that 60 percent of Indiana’s 2018 high school graduating cohort earned dual credit. On average, dual credit students earn 13.5 college credits during high school.
By statute, every Indiana public high school is required to offer at least two dual credit courses and two Advanced Placement courses. To continue to take dual credit courses, high school students must earn at least a letter grade of C in their most recent dual credit course.
Notably, Indiana reported that dual credit students graduating in 2018 saved $82 million in public college tuition. The state of Indiana saved $78 million in appropriations for education.
Iowa Dual Credit Programs
Iowa provides a summary of opportunities for high school students to earn college credits under the umbrella term of Senior Year Plus. Programs under the Senior Year Plus classification include Advanced Placement, Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO), Concurrent Enrollment, and Career Academies.
Iowa’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) Act was passed in 1987. All 11th and 12th grade students are eligible to participate. Students in 9th and 10th grade must be identified by the district as gifted and talented to participate.
Iowa provides an annual Condition of Education report. The 2022 report indicates that 47,228 high school students took 111,769 courses for college credit in academic year 2021-22. Nearly 100% of all districts with high schools offered dual enrollment courses.
By subject area, Career Technical/Vocational Ed courses comprised 30.1% of all courses taken in 2021-2022. English courses comprised 21.3%, Social Studies courses comprised 19.4%, math comprised 9.5%, Science courses comprised 4.0%, and World Language course comprised 3.1%.
Dual enrollment is an option for homeschooled students in Iowa. Homeschool Iowa provides a section with multiple options as well as explanations for the potential impact on funding, athletic team participation, and other issues that could surface. I could not locate reports detailing the number of homeschool students in Iowa that participate in dual enrollment.
Idaho Dual Credit Programs
Idaho’s dual credit program was enacted by its legislature in 1997 and implemented in 1998. Idaho’s website lists nine colleges and universities that offer dual credit programs. In addition, the state touts the fact that six of the nine dual credit programs are NACEP accredited. Students in grades 7 through 12 are eligible.
Idaho’s dual credit courses are taught by high school teachers who have been prequalified by their college partner and are given adjunct status at the college. The course curriculum and textbooks are approved by the college and a college grading scale is applied. Dual credit courses must be listed in the partner college or university catalog.
Students are uniformly charged $75 per college credit. However, the state has established the Fast Forward Program that provides $4,125 to help pay for dual/concurrent enrollment credits, advanced placement college board and professional technical education exams and overload course fees.
Iowa provides an annual Advanced Opportunities report. The most recent one was published in September 2023. The report shows the utilization of advanced opportunities by public school students. The percentages of students participating in grades 7 and 8 are very small. In FY23, 22% of 9th graders, 41% of 10th graders, 58% of 11th graders, and 56% of seniors participated.
The Iowa report also provides enrollment data by school district. Interestingly, some of the districts with the highest participation percentage appear to be charter schools. Meridian Medical Arts Charter is ranked #1 with a 95% participation rate. The Academy at Roosevelt Center is #2 with a 75% participation rate.
Idaho also offers an Early Graduation Scholarship for public school students who attend public colleges in Idaho. The scholarship equals 35% of the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for a given school year or approximately $1,800. The award doubles for students who graduate two years early and triples for students who graduate three years early. In FY23, 67 students received it.
Minnesota Concurrent Enrollment Programs
Minnesota’s concurrent enrollment programs are limited to high school juniors and seniors. There is no cost to a public school student. and the classes are taught by qualified high school teachers at public high schools. Dual enrollment programs have been in place for 35 years and all colleges and universities are required to report their policies for credit acceptance.
Minnesota also offers Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) which are direct contract partnerships between high schools and postsecondary institutions. Public school students, home school students, and nonpublic students are allowed to receive the benefits of these PSEO programs which averaged 16.6 credits per student in 2021.
Approximately 11,000 students participated in PSEO in 2021, and 33,000 students enrolled in dual enrollment courses in 2021. Based on the information presented on the Department of Education’s website, I believe the difference in enrollment per program is based on the requirement that most PSEO students take their courses on college campuses.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MnDE) encourages colleges to participate in the NACEP accreditation, but it is not required. The MnDE is required to submit an annual report to the legislature. The PSEO program reimbursed colleges approximately $39 million or $219 per credit in 2021. The dual enrollment program reimbursed high schools approximately $50 per course per student in 2021.
PSEO students taking classes on college campuses averaged 16.6 credits per student in 2021. Dual enrollment students averaged 8 credits per student in 2021. I’m not sure if the high school students taking college courses on campus attempt more credits due to the travel or if the high schools cap the number of dual enrollment classes they offer because of the legislature’s annual cap of $4 million for the dual enrollments taught at high schools.
Colorado’s Dual and Concurrent Enrollment Programs
Colorado’s Concurrent Enrollment Program was passed by its legislature in 2009. The state offers a website for parents and students. The state offers multiple programs including:
- concurrent enrollment
- dual enrollment
- Early College High School
- Pathways in Technology (P-TECH).
Students enrolled in concurrent enrollment pay no tuition but may have to pay for books. Credits are guaranteed to transfer to Colorado public colleges and universities. In the 2018-2019 academic year, more than a third of its high school graduates participated in dual enrollment. An average of 8.0 credit hours were awarded to students.
All high schools seeking to offer dual enrollment courses must partner with a local education provider. In FY19, 28 public colleges had an estimated 520 agreements in place with Colorado high schools. The number of students enrolled in dual enrollment programs grew 11 percent from FY18 to FY19.
Colorado provides funding for districts to assist teachers with the cost of obtaining a master’s degree or vocational credential required to teach dual enrollment courses.
ASCENT is a program that allows students to participate in dual enrollment for a fifth high school year. To be eligible for the program, students must have completed 12 postsecondary credit hours prior to completing their 12th grade year. More than 40% of students who participated in ASCENT in FY19 were Hispanic.
Colorado’s Department of Education is required to issue an annual report on Dual Enrollment programs. One of the many statistics in the report indicates that if all participants transferred their credits to colleges, the 2018 graduates would have saved approximately $50 million in tuition.
Observations After My Review
Funding and Commitment may be the two biggest factors in determining the percentage of high school students who earn college credits during high school. Indiana’s status as the state with the highest participation rate is likely attributable to both. Indiana’s graduates also earned the highest average college credits among the five states reviewed with an average of 13.5.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the “encouragement” by some states that participating colleges or consortiums of colleges seek accreditation of their programs by NACEP. I was also pleased that states provided tuition reimbursement for high school teachers seeking master’s degrees to qualify as instructors.
I am far from the only fan of dual enrollment. The U.S. Department of Education lists dual enrollment as one of its four core student-centered pillars in its Pathways Initiative and touts the documented postsecondary success of underserved minorities who participate in dual enrollment programs in high school.
As the Department wrote in its blog article titled the Power of Dual Enrollment, “national data is limited.” I doubt that I have the time or patience to review all 50 states for their dual enrollment policies, funding, and enrollment data. Most likely, I’ll add a few more states where I have institutional contacts like Maryland, Florida, and Texas. As always, your feedback is appreciated.