How Fast is the Dual Enrollment Market Growing?

In an April 2023 article titled How Fast is the Dual Enrollment Market Growing?, Eduventures Senior Analyst at Encoura Clint Raine tackles a topic made more relevant this Spring when it was revealed that dual enrollment was the major reason for community college enrollments increasing for the first time since the pandemic.

Mr. Raine writes that it is tough to define the size of the pre-college programming market, most likely because many different terms are used to describe it. For example, dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college are all terms used to describe programs that allow high school students to earn college credit. Mr. Raine cites the College in High School Alliance’s 2021 report that states that dual enrollment data is either old, inconsistent, or too general. However, there are two proxies that Mr. Raine believes can provide a glimpse of the dual enrollment market size.

Proxy 1 is the Non-Degree/Certificate-Seeking Undergraduate Enrollment. Mr. Raine writes that this segment includes, but is not limited to, dual enrollment students. He reports that in Fall 2021, there were 1.94 million enrolled students under this classification. These students comprised 14 percent of the degree/certificate seeking undergraduate enrollment of 13.9 million. Mr. Raine uses the data in the figure below to illustrate how these populations have fared over the past decade with the non-degree/certificate seeking undergrad population increasing while the degree/certificate seeking undergrad population declined.

the non-degree/certificate seeking undergrad population increasing while the degree/certificate seeking undergrad population declined

Proxy 2 is Under 18 Undergraduate Enrollment. According to NCES (the National Center for Educational Statistics), this enrollment includes high school students taking regular college courses for credit. In the figure below, Mr. Raine points out how the number of students included in this metric more than doubled over the past decade from 812k to 1.5M. Mr. Raine believes that Proxy 2 is a more accurate proxy than Proxy 1.

Under 18 Undergraduate Enrollment

In addition to the two national points of data cited by Mr. Raine, he mentions that certain states publish more accurate data about dual credit enrollments. The reason is that high schools are required by law (ESSA) to report data to their states about students taking accelerated coursework to earn postsecondary credit. He cites five states that stand out based on their data.

Mr. Raine writes that pre-college programming improves college matriculation rates and performance. He also writes that more work needs to be done to see that these programs reach more than those students who are already planning to attend college. He writes that experts believe these programs need to reach out more to low-income students. Ohio reports that only 17.8 percent of College Credit Plus participants are economically disadvantaged. Lastly, Mr. Raine writes that the increase in dual enrollment participation could be a harbinger of potential increases in college enrollments.

I have been a proponent of dual enrollment programs for years. I witnessed the impact firsthand when my daughters enrolled in universities in Texas and had classmates from Texas whose college standing was a year or even two years ahead of theirs thanks to Texas’ aggressive dual enrollment program. There are very few students who can earn that much credit through Advanced Placement programs. Dual enrollment saves students time and saves students and their families money, both of which matter. I’ll answer Mr. Raine’s question about how fast the dual enrollment market is growing with three words – not fast enough.

Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence