Dual enrollment improves student college going and postsecondary success, but practitioners need help in understanding the impact of dual enrollment and in learning strategies associated with effective and equitable implementation. Under the auspices of the IES-funded Evaluation of Career and College Promise (CCP) project, the North Carolina Community College System suggested hosting a conference to build knowledge and capacity in the field about dual enrollment. The Evaluation of CCP is a partnership with the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Community College System, and the RAND Corporation. In addition to the research goals—which involve looking at the implementation, impact, and cost of North Carolina’s dual enrollment program—the project also has a goal of capacity development for the agencies and for practitioners. As part of meeting this last goal, the project recently hosted a conference on Dual Enrollment: Accelerating Educational Attainment (DE21) with over 1,000 registrants from North Carolina and around the country.
Julie Edmunds, the project’s principal investigator, discusses the DE21 conference.
Why host a conference on dual enrollment?
This was the brainchild of our partners at the North Carolina Community College System. They wanted to create an opportunity where researchers and practitioners could gather and share lessons learned from their respective work. The NC Community College System expected that we would be learning a lot from our project that we would want to share; they also knew that the people in the trenches had many valuable insights to help bridge the gap between research and practice. Because existing research shows that not all groups of students have the same access to dual enrollment, the project team decided collectively that the conference should have a strong focus on equity and to use the conference as a way to communicate and discuss strategies to support equity.
What happened at the conference?
We had a total of 40 sessions across two full days. There were dynamic keynote speakers, including Karen Stout from Achieving the Dream, and panels that discussed dual enrollment from the policy, research, student and parent perspectives. Although there was a strong North Carolina focus, there were sessions from other states such as Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, and Ohio.
Conference presentations were organized into five themes: expanding access and equity, fostering college attainment, ensuring a successful transition to college and careers, preparing students for dual enrollment, and supporting success in dual enrollment courses.
The CCP study team presented findings from our evaluation of North Carolina’s dual enrollment pathways. We looked at individual and school-level factors associated with dual enrollment participation, such as student demographics, school size, locale, percentage of students from underrepresented minority groups, academic achievement, and workforce-orientation of students. Student socioeconomic level did not affect participation in dual enrollment. We also presented preliminary impacts of North Carolina’s three different dual enrollment pathways (college transfer, Career and Technical Education, and Cooperative Innovative High Schools or early colleges). Results from these three pathways showed that CCP participants had better high school outcomes such as higher school graduation rates and were more likely to enroll in postsecondary education. In addition, there were multiple sessions sharing research results from other states.
There were many presentations from practitioners that focused on topics like rigorous instruction, advising, participation of students with disabilities, creating strong secondary-postsecondary partnerships, using high school teachers as college instructors, among others. I need to give a huge shoutout to Katie Bao from the NC Community College System, who shepherded us all through the conference planning and implementation process.
What was the impact of the pandemic?
When we originally planned for the conference, we thought it would be in person. After the pandemic hit, we decided (as many other organizations did) to host it virtually. This made the conference much more accessible to a national audience, and we had participants and presenters from around the country.
What if someone missed the conference?
Another benefit of a virtual conference is that we are able to share all the sessions from the meeting. Please visit our site on YouTube to listen to the conference.
What comes next?
Our study work continues, and we will share the results in a variety of ways, including through briefs and journal articles. We are also planning to host a second conference in 2023 and expect that it will have a virtual component so that it can continue to be available to a national audience.
Dr. Julie Edmunds is a Program Director at the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition to being the PI on the Evaluation of Career and College Promise, she is one of the leading researchers on early college, a model that combines high school and college.