Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants and Contracts

IES Grant

Title: The Outcomes and Return on Investment of Concurrent Enrollment in Colorado: A Researcher-Practitioner Partnership to Improve Postsecondary Access and Success
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Bean, Beth Awardee: Colorado Department of Higher Education
Program: Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/2017-06/30/2019) Award Amount: $399,016
Type: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership Award Number: R305H170049

Co-Principal Investigator: Pamela Rose Buckley (University of Colorado at Boulder)

Partner Institutions: Colorado Department of Higher Education; University of Colorado at Boulder; Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates; National Center for Higher Education Management Systems; and University of Denver (Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab).

Purpose: The goals of this project are to:

  • build the capacity of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) for evaluating policies aiming to increase college attainment;
  • conduct a preliminary assessment of the student outcomes, costs, and economic benefits of concurrent enrollment in the state of Colorado; and
  • develop a robust, state-level research agenda for improving college outcomes.

Many young adults arrive at college without the preparation necessary to succeed. Lack of college readiness is especially prevalent among students from low-income and minority families. Concurrent enrollment, also referred to as dual enrollment, prepares students for college and helps them to earn college-level credits, by offering them college-level courses during high school. Through this partnership, researchers will assess whether concurrent enrollment is a cost-effective policy for raising college attainment rates for students who graduate from Colorado high schools. The partnership will examine several research questions, including whether concurrent enrollment improves rates of college enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment for students from low-income and minority families.

Partnership Activities: Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Northern Colorado will collaborate with the CDHE on analysis of the quantitative data, which will be collected and merged by researchers at CDHE. Researchers at the Augenblick, Palaich, and Associates (APA) consulting firm will facilitate the partnership, coordinate monthly meetings, and conduct the cost study. Researchers at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) will lead the return on investment analysis.

Setting: This research project will take place in high schools and community colleges located across the state of Colorado.

Population/Sample: The sample will include 5 cohorts of approximately 8,000 students each who were eleventh graders in a Colorado public high school during academic years from 2009-10 through 2013-14. Researchers will divide students into treatment and control groups based on whether the high schools they attended offered more or less than the state median number of concurrent enrollment courses.

Data Analytic Strategy: Researchers will conduct a quasi-experimental mixed-methods study employing a quantitative assessment of the evidence of promise for concurrent enrollment as a strategy for improving student outcomes, and a qualitative analysis of the costs and returns on investment for this strategy. Researchers will rely on data from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to construct the sample, using propensity score matching at the school and student levels to arrive at matched groups of students enrolled and not enrolled in college-level courses during high school. They will track students' progress through postsecondary education using data from the CDHE and the National Student Clearinghouse, and will employ two-level logistic regression models to examine the relationship between concurrent enrollment and several postsecondary outcomes including enrollment, persistence, and degree completion. For the cost-estimate case studies, researchers will apply the ingredients method of cost analysis using cost data from rural and urban districts and the community colleges these districts feed into. Cost data will be collected through document reviews and interviews with budget administrators and educators at the secondary and postsecondary level. At the end of the study, researchers will conduct a return-on-investment analysis that compares the economic and social value of improved student outcomes associated with concurrent enrollment to the cost of implementing this type of programming at the high school level.

Outcomes: The partnership will produce evidence of promise for concurrent enrollment as a strategy for improving college attainment for all students in Colorado, with special attention to whether this strategy improves outcomes for students from low-income and minority families. They will also estimate returns on investment, a measure likely to be of interest to Colorado policymakers as they weigh future investments in postsecondary education. The partnership will produce peer-reviewed publications and policy briefs of its findings, and will also distribute its findings through newsletters and social media sites of member organizations within the partnership.