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Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment
May 2018


What does the research say about how Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment or credit classes compare in terms of level of rigor, college credit, and helping to prepare students for college classes?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Dutkowsky, D. H., Evensky, J. M., & Edmonds, G. S. (2009). Should a high school adopt Advanced Placement or a concurrent enrollment program? An expected benefit approach. Education Finance and Policy, 4(3), 263–277. Prepublication version retrieved from

From the Abstract:
This article provides an explicit framework for evaluating the expected benefit to college-bound students of courses offered by Advanced Placement (AP) versus concurrent enrollment programs (CEP). District personnel can use it to assess the relative merits of these programs, given the characteristics of their students, in deciding which model to implement or maintain. Simulations reveal that CEP generally provides a higher expected benefit for districts where students who take the course attend private colleges or universities (including public institutions out of state) and perform on the AP exam around national norms. AP favors high schools where students taking the course either face inexpensive costs for study at institutions of higher education or perform exceptionally well on the AP exam. Information from a sample of 240 colleges and universities reveals that few explicitly reject AP or CEP for credit if the student meets a minimum criterion, although more information is provided for AP.

Gruman, D. H. (2013). Advanced Placement versus dual enrollment: Making the best choice for college selection, persistence, early success, and time to completion (Doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas). Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
A substantial amount of research examines the benefits of high school college-credit attainment programs against non-participation. The growth in popularity of these programs, particularly Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment (DE), has them competing against one another for student attention. However, students, schools, and policymakers do not have all the information they need to make an educated decision because few independent studies compare college-credit attainment programs with each other. This study examines the college level outcomes of students who enroll in a college preparatory course of study among those who pursue college credit through participation in AP, DE, Both, or Neither.

Hansen, K., Jackson, B., McInelly, B. C., & Eggett, D. (2015). How do dual credit students perform on college writing tasks after they arrive on campus? Empirical data from a large-scale study. Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, 38(2), 56–92. Summary available from

From the Abstract:
Dual credit/concurrent enrollment programs are proliferating because of state and national political support, yet writing program administrators have almost no national empirical data for judging the nature and quality of dual credit/concurrent enrollment students' writing. This study compared the writing performance of dual credit/concurrent enrollment students in a first-year university course on American history and politics with that of students who had already earned credit for first-year writing from either AP or our institutions first-year writing course and with that of students concurrently enrolled in first-year writing or still planning to take first-year writing—five groups in all. No statistically significant differences for dual credit/concurrent enrollment students were found when they were compared to other groups. Interpreting the results in light of other data from two surveys and four focus groups, the authors surmise that the kind of curriculum or instructor in any particular variant of first-year writing is likely less important than student maturation, cognitive development, and exposure to more writing instruction in improving students' writing abilities. The authors recommend replication (with modifications) of this research at public state and regional universities with more diverse student bodies. Given the national emphasis on making students “college and career ready,” the authors also endorse the recommendations of the 2013 NCTE policy research brief, “First-Year Writing: What Good Does It Do?”.

Speroni, C. (2011). Determinants of students' success: The role of Advanced Placement and dual enrollment programs [Working paper]. New York, NY: Columbia University, Teachers College, National Center for Postsecondary Research.

From the Abstract:
Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment (DE) are two programs that allow high school students to earn college credits. The recent growth of these programs has been unprecedented. However, there is little evidence that compares how they fare in terms of improving college access and success. Using data from two cohorts of all high school students in Florida and controlling for schools’ and students’ characteristics (including prior achievement), this study examines the relative power of AP and DE in predicting students' college access and success. The study finds that both AP and DE are strongly associated with positive outcomes, but the enrollment outcomes are not the same for both programs. DE students are more likely than AP students to go to college after high school, but they are less likely to first enroll in a four-year college. Despite this difference in initial enrollment, the difference between DE and AP in terms of bachelor's degree attainment is much smaller and not statistically significant for some model specifications. In addition, the effect of DE is driven by courses taken at the local community college campus; there is no effect for DE courses taken at the high school. Participation Rates by District are appended. (Contains 6 tables, 3 figures and 9 footnotes.)

Wyatt, J. N., Patterson, B. F., & Di Giacomo, F. T. (2015). A comparison of the college outcomes of AP® and dual enrollment students (Research Report No. 2015-3). New York, NY: College Board.

From the Abstract:
Educators are increasingly focused on ensuring that students experience a rigorous curriculum in high school and graduate college and career ready. One way of introducing rigorous course work is to have students take college-level work, often in the form of either an AP® course and exam or a dual enrollment course. This study compared the outcomes of students who participated in either program and graduated high school in 2006.


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Advanced placement, Dual credit OR Dual enrollment, Compare OR Comparison

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.