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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

College and Career Readiness

December 2019


What research is available on the effects of dual enrollment programs on student outcomes?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies, and policy overviews on the effects of dual enrollment programs on student outcomes. In particular, we focused on identifying resources related to time-to-degree attainment and reducing college costs. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

ACT, Inc. (2015). Using dual enrollment to improve the educational outcomes of high school students (Policy Brief). Iowa City, IA: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This report describes ACT’s multiyear commitment to increasing the number of eligible high school students enrolled in dual enrollment programs across the nation. The report also offers four policy recommendations to expand dual enrollment programs, as well as examples of each from selected states.”

Allen, D. (2010). Dual enrollment: A comprehensive literature review & bibliography. New York, NY: CUNY Collaborative Programs. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “The following is a comprehensive review of recent (2000-2010) publications, articles, presentations and ongoing research on dual enrollment practices, effectiveness, and policy issues. The document is organized around a core set of questions about dual enrollment.”

Allen, D., & Dadgar, M. (2012). Does dual enrollment increase students’ success in college? Evidence from a quasi-experimental analysis of dual enrollment in New York City. New Directions for Higher Education, 158, 11–19. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article discusses new evidence on the effectiveness of dual enrollment in increasing college achievement in New York City (NYC). After reviewing existing research on the effectiveness of dual enrollment programs, the authors discuss the results of a recent evaluation of College Now, the dual enrollment program of The City University of New York (CUNY). They find that enrolling in a College Now dual enrollment course reduces time to degree, not only by allowing students to earn college credits before entering college but also by increasing the number of college courses students take once they are enrolled in college. Furthermore, they find that the program also increases students’ academic performance as measured by higher college grade point average (GPA). Their study affirms the findings from recent quantitative evaluations of dual enrollment that the programs can indeed help improve post-secondary attainment and reduce time to degree.”

An, B. P. (2013). The impact of dual enrollment on college degree attainment: Do low-SES students benefit?. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(1), 57–75. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Dual enrollment in high school is viewed by many as one mechanism for widening college admission and completion of low-income students. However, little evidence demonstrates that these students discretely benefit from dual enrollment and whether these programs narrow attainment gaps vis-a-vis students from middle-class or affluent family backgrounds. Using the National Longitudinal Study of 1988 (‘N’= 8,800), I find significant benefits in boosting rates of college degree attainment for low-income students while holding weaker effects for peers from more affluent backgrounds. These results remain even with analyses from newer data of college freshman of 2004. I conduct sensitivity analyses and find that these results are robust to relatively large unobserved confounders. However, expanding dual enrollment programs would modestly reduce gaps in degree attainment.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

An, B. P., & Taylor, J. L. (2019). A review of empirical studies on dual enrollment: Assessing educational outcomes. In M. B. Paulsen, & L. W. Perna (Eds.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 99–151). New York, NY: Springer. Retrieved from

From the introduction: “In this chapter, we review the empirical studies on dual enrollment, paying attention to research that centers on the student. By focusing on the student as the unit of analysis, our paper considers research in two general areas: patterns of participation in dual enrollment, and the relation between dual enrollment and educational outcomes.”

Arnold, B., Knight, H., & Flora, B. (2017). Dual enrollment student achievement in various learning environments. Journal of Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), 25–32. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this study was to examine whether variations in student achievement in college courses exist between high school students who took the courses as dual enrollment (DE) courses and academically comparable high school students (AIMS scholars) who took the courses upon matriculation to college. Additionally, the researcher explored whether differences exist in DE course grade for students by course environment (online, face-to-face at a high school, or face-to-face at a college). The researcher used final course grades as determinants of student achievement. The study focused on DE student and AIMS scholar grades in English 111, Biology 101, Math 163, and History 101 courses that were taken between the 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 school years at a community college in Southwest Virginia. The population consisted of 429 AIMS scholars and 2,015 DE students. For this study 3,639 DE student grades and 706 AIMS student grades were used in calculations. The dependent variables in this study were final course grades; the independent variables were DE participation and course delivery environment. Welch’s t tests were used to examine the variations in final grades for DE and non-DE students; ANOVA procedures were used to examine variations in final course grades for DE courses based on delivery environment.”

Burns, K., Ellegood, W. A., Bernard Bracy, J. M., Duncan, M., & Sweeney, D. C., II. (2019). Early college credit programs positively impact student success. Journal of Advanced Academics, 30(1), 27–49. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This article presents an exploratory case study examining the effects of different early college credit programs on time to baccalaureate degree attainment at a metropolitan Midwestern United States land grant university. We developed a Cox proportional hazards regression model of a students’ time to degree attainment as a function of their participation in different early college credit programs while controlling for each student’s preenrollment grade point average (GPA), American College Test (ACT) test score, gender, part or full-time enrollment status, ethnicity, and seasonal (Fall, Spring, or Summer) semester of initial matriculation. The most noteworthy finding of our analysis was that each early college credit program appeared to have a positive and statistically significant impact on reducing the time to degree attainment with all other factors being equal. However, the mechanisms through which these programs affect the time to degree attainment appeared to be differentiated by program.”

Garet, M., Knudson, J., & Hoshen, G. (2014). Early college, continued success: Early college high school initiative impact study. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “In 2013, AIR released the report, Early College, Early Success: Early College High School Initiative Impact Study. The report was a comprehensive examination of two research questions. It relied on many data sources to examine high school and post-high-school outcomes as well as high school experiences. This report uses an additional year of postsecondary data from NSC to provide updated findings for several key postsecondary outcomes. Overall, 81 percent of Early College students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of comparison students. During the study period, 25 percent of Early College students earned a college degree (typically an associate’s degree), as compared with only 5 percent of comparison students. The authors noted that students in the study were between two and four years out of high school so many would not have had time to complete their bachelor’s degrees. Although the findings from this study are applicable only to the 10 Early Colleges included in the study sample, they provide strong evidence for the positive impact of Early Colleges on students. The findings in this report, which extend the study’s original results by including an additional year of data, affirm the core findings: Early College students had a greater opportunity than their peers to enroll in and graduate from college. They also appeared to be on a different academic trajectory, with Early College students earning college degrees at higher rates than comparison students. In addition, Early Colleges appeared to mitigate the traditional educational attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Early College students were benefitting from their Early College experience beyond high school, and AIR expects these benefits to continue.”

Godfrey, K., Matos-Elefonte, H., Ewing, M., & Patel, P. (2014). College completion: Comparing AP®, dual-enrolled, and nonadvanced students. (Research Report 2014-3). New York, NY: College Board. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The study presented here is an investigation and comparison of the relationships between the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) and dual-enrolled high school courses and college outcomes. Previous research provides evidence that participation in AP, and subsequent success on AP Exams, is positively related to various college outcomes including an increased likelihood of graduating from college and better preparation for the academic rigor of the college classroom. This study aims to contribute to the understanding of the value of advanced course work in high school in preparing students for higher education success by investigating the relationships between participation and performance in AP courses and exams, dual enrollment courses, and regular courses and four different college outcomes including first-year subject-specific GPA, final subject-specific GPA, calendar time to bachelor’s degree, and credit hours attempted. Results indicated that higher performance on AP Exams was related to higher college performance in the subject area, as well as fewer credit hours taken to bachelor’s degree. Most dual enrollment course grades were at a C or higher, and students taking these courses tended to graduate from college in fewer calendar terms than other groups.”

Grubb, J. M., Scott, P. H., & Good, D. W. (2017). The answer is yes: Dual enrollment benefits students at the community college. Community College Review, 45(2), 79–98. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Objective: The study assesses the impact of dual enrollment participation on remediation and completion for traditional first time, full-time freshmen at a community college in Northeast Tennessee. Method: This study began with the full population of 1,232 students who enrolled between 2008 and 2012 at a community college in northeast Tennessee the fall semester after finishing high school. The population was required to have American College Testing (ACT) scores, completely fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), enroll full-time as a degree-seeking student, and complete the first fall semester. Propensity score matching was utilized to eliminate self-selection bias and enable parametric comparisons using optimal matching of dual enrollment participants and non-participants while controlling for a range of covariates. Results: The analyses showed that community college students who participated in dual enrollment were (a) 9% or nearly 3.4 times less likely to take remediation, (b) 26% or nearly 2.5 times more likely to graduate in 2 years, and (c) 28% or nearly 1.5 times more likely to graduate in 3 years. Contributions: This study contributes to the literature showing that dual enrollment reduces remediation rates and assists in timely completions for community college students. Policy recommendations are to increase equitable participation, normalize dual enrollment for students academically able to do college coursework, align state terminology with the nation, and improve data for future research.”

Haxton, C., Song, M., Zeiser, K., Berger, A., Turk-Bicakci, L., Garet, M. S., et al. (2016). Longitudinal findings from the Early College High School Initiative Impact Study. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 38(2), 410–430. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This study is a randomized controlled trial that assessed the impact of Early College High Schools on students’ high school graduation, college enrollment, and college degree attainment, as well as students’ high school experiences using extant data and survey data. The study included 10 Early Colleges that enrolled students in Grades 9 to 12 in 2005 through 2011 and used a lottery for admissions, and 2,458 students who participated in those admission lotteries. The study time frame covered Grade 9 through 2 years post high school for all students and 4 years post high school for the oldest student cohort. It found that Early Colleges had positive impacts on college enrollment and college completion as well as students’ high school experiences.”

Indiana Commission for Higher Education. (2017). College readiness report supplement: Dual credit taking and college performance trends. Indianapolis, IN: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Dual credit courses offer high school students the opportunity to earn both high school and college credits in the same course. Indiana law requires each Indiana high school to offer a minimum of two dual credit courses (as well as two Advanced Placement (AP) courses) to expand opportunities for students to gain college-level experience while still in high school. Dual credit courses typically are taught at the high school by high school personnel, although dual credit courses also are delivered on some college campuses. Additionally, some specialized Early College High Schools use dual credit courses to enable students to earn postsecondary credentials along with their high school diplomas. Using the latest data, this year’s study seeks to shed light on pressing questions about the link between dual credit and college degree completion and takes a closer look at the characteristics and performance of 2015 high school graduates by the type of dual credit awarded. New questions addressed include: (1) What patterns are apparent in dual credit taking?; (2) How do dual credit-only students compare to other students in terms of time-to-degree and overall completion?; and (3) How do the characteristics of technical and priority dual credit holders differ, and what is the relationship between dual credit type and college performance?”

Pierson, A., Hodara, M., & Luke, J. (2017). Earning college credits in high school: Options, participation, and outcomes for Oregon students (REL 2017-216). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Oregon’s postsecondary attainment goal for 2025, adopted in 2011, calls for 40 percent of Oregon adults to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or postsecondary certificate, and the remaining 20 percent to have a high school diploma or equivalent (S. 253, Or. 2011). As in other states a central strategy for increasing postsecondary attainment in Oregon is to promote accelerated college credit options—such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, dual credit, and dual enrollment courses—that enable high school students to earn college credit. Oregon has invested heavily in the accelerated college credit strategy, with particular attention to student groups that have historically not had access to these courses. The study focuses on options offered between 2005/06 and 2012/13 through Oregon community colleges, including dual credit (in which high school students earn both high school and college credit by taking a college course at their high school) and dual enrollment (in which high school students earn both high school and college credit by taking a college course at the college campus or online), and on the characteristics of the students who enroll in these classes. The study also explores the relationship between students’ participation in dual credit and later education outcomes, including high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment, and postsecondary persistence. Key findings include the following: (1) Oregon public colleges have many accelerated college credit options, but their cost, eligibility requirements, and geographic coverage vary greatly across institutions; (2) Oregon’s rate of community college dual credit participation is higher than the national average; (3) Oregon students taking dual credit courses through a community college enroll and earn credit in an average of three dual credit courses during their time in high school; (4) More than 90 percent of students pass the community college dual credit courses in which they have enrolled; (5) Community college dual credit students are more likely to be White, female, high achievers, and not eligible for the federal school lunch program; (6) Male students in all racial/ethnic groups participate in community college dual credit at lower rates than female students do, and in each racial/ethnic group the gender gap in participation is similar; (7) In each racial/ethnic group students eligible for the federal school lunch program participate in community college dual credit at lower rates than students who are not eligible; (8) The rates at which students who participate in dual credit programs graduate from high school, enroll in college, and persist in the first year of college are higher than the state average; and (9) At the five community colleges examined in a dual enrollment analysis, participation in dual enrollment was low but grew over time. Dual enrollment students had lower achievement on state math and reading tests and higher rates of eligibility for the federal school lunch program than dual credit students had. Oregon stakeholders can use the study results to better understand the breadth and characteristics of accelerated college credit options in the state; dual credit programs’ equity gaps—which can inform outreach efforts to students participating at lower rates, such as rural, economically disadvantaged, and racial/ethnic minority students; and data that should be reported to the state to conduct analyses that improve monitoring and evaluation of accelerated college credit programs. Nationally, this study offers an example to other states of potentially useful analyses to inform improvements to these programs.”

Radunzel, J., Noble, J., & Wheeler, S. (2014). Dual-credit/dual-enrollment coursework and long-term college success in Texas (Issue Brief). Iowa City, IA: ACT, Inc. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This study was a cooperative effort of the Texas-ACT College Success Research Consortium, a research partnership between ACT and the following Texas four-year postsecondary institutions: (1) The University of Texas at Austin; (2) Texas A&M University at College Station; (3) Texas A&M University at Commerce; and (4) University of Texas—Pan American. In this study, researchers compared the short- and long-term college outcomes of incoming students who had and had not taken dual-credit/dual-enrollment courses in high school. Data for the study were provided by the four member institutions of the Texas-ACT College Success Research Consortium. Primary findings suggest that, compared to students with no dual credit, students entering college with dual credit are generally: (1) more likely to be successful in college, including completing a bachelor’s degree in a more timely manner; and (2) as likely to earn a grade of B or higher in subsequent courses taken in college. Moreover, among dual-credit students: (1) Those entering college with a greater number of dual-credit hours are more likely to progress toward a degree and complete a bachelor’s degree in a timely manner, and they do so without accumulating a substantially greater number of credit hours by graduation; and (2) Their chances of college success do not differ between those who take most of their dual-credit coursework through a two-year institution and those who take most through a four-year institution.”

Roughton, D. (2016). Addressing college access and success gaps in traditionally underrepresented populations: The North Carolina early college high school model. Higher Education Politics & Economics, 2(1), 82–93. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The push for increased democratization of higher education in the United States coupled with the rising costs of college have led many institutions to turn to dual enrollment models as a means to increase access for students. Most states now allow qualifying high school students to take college courses free, or at a reduced rate, while still enrolled in secondary education, saving students and their families tens of thousands of dollars. Increased access, however, has not necessarily led to increased student success in terms of academic achievement and completion rates, especially among students from traditionally underrepresented populations. Racial and ethnic minorities, first-generation students, and students from low socio-economic status (SES) families continue to have lower than average college completion rates. One dual enrollment model, the early college high school, focuses specifically on these groups in an effort to improve academic performance both at the high school and college levels. The North Carolina early college model, in particular, has demonstrated effectiveness in improving high school graduation rates and college readiness among traditionally underrepresented populations.”

Taylor, J. L., & Yan, R. (2018). Exploring the outcomes of standards-based concurrent enrollment and Advanced Placement in Arkansas. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26(123). Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Accelerated programs (concurrent enrollment and Advanced Placement) are expanding across the US, yet there is little evidence on the relationships between participation in different accelerated programs, standards-based concurrent enrollment programs (e.g., accredited programs), and educational outcomes. This study used data from a cohort of Arkansas high school graduates and school-level fixed effects to assess how different accelerated programs predict students’ likelihood of enrolling in and being retained in an Arkansas college. We found that participation in concurrent enrollment and Advanced Placement predicts college access and college retention. However, we found no differences in college access and retention based on whether students participated in a NACEP-accredited concurrent enrollment program or not. The results suggest the need to expand access to both concurrent enrollment and Advanced Placement and the need for more research on standards-based concurrent enrollment programs such as those that are NACEP-accredited.”

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2017). Transition to College intervention report: Dual enrollment programs. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “‘Dual enrollment’ programs allow high school students to take college courses and earn college credits while still attending high school. Such programs, also referred to as ‘dual credit’ or early college programs, are designed to boost college access and degree attainment, especially for students typically underrepresented in higher education. ‘Dual enrollment programs’ support college credit accumulation and degree attainment via at least three mechanisms. First, allowing high school students to experience college-level courses helps them prepare for the social and academic requirements of college while having the additional supports available to high school students; this may reduce the need for developmental coursework. Second, students who accumulate college credits early and consistently are more likely to attain a college degree. Third, many ‘dual enrollment’ programs offer discounted or free tuition, which reduces the overall cost of college and may increase the number of low socioeconomic status students who can attend and complete college. This What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) intervention report presents findings from a systematic review of ‘dual enrollment’ programs conducted using the WWC Procedures and Standards Handbook, version 3.0, and the Transition to College review protocol, version 3.2. The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) identified five studies of ‘dual enrollment’ programs that both fall within the scope of the Transition to College topic area and meet WWC group design standards. Two studies meet WWC group design standards without reservations, and three studies meet WWC group design standards with reservations. Together, these studies included 77,249 high school students across the United States. ‘Dual enrollment’ programs were found to have positive effects on students’ degree attainment (college), college access and enrollment, credit accumulation, completing high school, and general academic achievement (high school), with a medium to large extent of evidence. For the staying in high school, college readiness, and attendance (high school) domains, ‘dual enrollment’ programs had potentially positive effects with a small extent of evidence. ‘Dual enrollment programs’ were found to have no discernible effects on general academic achievement (college) with a small extent of evidence.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Dual enrollment”

  • “Dual enrollment” “time to degree”

Databases and Search Engines

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 IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

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

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2004 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its 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.