The ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence at Arizona State University and Helios Education Foundation today released a new policy brief and set of visualizations showing outcomes for students in Arizona high schools enrolled in dual enrollment programs, along with gaps that persist in the educational system preventing more students from taking advantage of dual enrollment programs.

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Highlights from the report show:

  • Dual enrollment students are twice as likely to go to college than their matched non-dual enrollment peers.
  • This increased likelihood is greatest for students who are low-income, male, Latino, and special education students with an individualized education program.
  • The type of dual enrollment course that students took impacted their likelihood of going to college. For example, in the class of 2019, dual enrollment students who successfully took an English course were 2.4 times more likely than their peers to attend college and students who took a math course were 2.2 times more likely to attend college.
  • Dual enrollment students are more than 1.2 times more likely to persist from year one to year two in college than their non-dual enrollment peers.
  • Although the rate of dual enrollment course-taking in Arizona has increased since 2017, only 24.4 percent of high school graduates take at least one dual enrollment course.

The Decision Center identified that nearly half of Arizona high schools do not offer dual enrollment due to either inequitable access; the absence of a systematic policy to help students and families pay for dual enrollment; the absence of a standardized way to determine eligibility for dual enrollment; or a lack of certified teachers to offer and teach dual enrollment courses.

How dual enrollment programs work

Dual enrollment courses provide college courses at the high school during the school day. Course grades of A, B or C earn college credit that can be transferred to the university. In contrast, Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses have specific rigorous curriculum, but the grade in the course does not result in college credit. Instead, students must take a standardized final exam and if they score high enough the university they will attend will determine if they will accept the score for college credit. This means that student knowledge and the ability to translate the course to college credit relies on a single examination, typically at the end of the academic year.

“There’s no arguing with the data; students who take dual enrollment courses have better postsecondary outcomes than their peers,” says Paul Perrault, senior vice president of community impact and learning for Helios Education Foundation and project lead on the dual enrollment policy brief. “The challenge before us now is to work to scale dual enrollment programs so that more Arizona students can benefit.”

In conjunction with the policy brief, the Decision Center also released an interactive module that allows educators to look at a series of data visualizations related to dual enrollment and AP courses. The module shows that access to dual enrollment and AP courses is not equitable across Arizona. Additional highlights include: