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March/April 2013

Phenomenal growth for dual-credit programs
by Hans A. Andrews

Hans A. Andrews is a former secondary school business teacher and counselor. He retired as college president for Olney Central College in Illinois and is now the Distinguished Fellow for Community College Leadership. He helped start the first dual-credit program in Illinois.

When Stacey R. Lee graduated from high school in a Southeastern Illinois town, she had something her classmates were only beginning to contemplate:   a college degree.

That was 12 years ago, when it was in vogue to let fellow classmates know you were “blowing off” senior year because your basic requirements for starting college had been met by the end of your junior year of high school. It also meant taking mostly elective courses to fill the senior year and coasting through to graduation with few challenges.

In 2001, the National Commission on the High School Senior Year found little inter-connection existed between K-12 schools and higher education. The systems were operating very independently of each other. Researchers said the senior year was pretty much a lost cause:

“For a variety of reasons, student motivation drops in the senior year. Short of a miserable failure … practically every college-bound student knows that what they have accomplished through Grade 11 will largely determine whether or not they attend college, and if so, which college. As a result, serious preparation ends at Grade 11.”

A co-chair of the National Commission said that while the economy and the nation’s workforce were in rapid change, many colleges and secondary schools were “standing still” — doing almost the same thing over the past quarter of the century.

Secondary schools were using honors courses and Advanced Placement (AP) to motivate and keep high performing students interested in school.

At the same time, community colleges were dealing with issues of their own. In 1998, Donald E. Puyear, former executive director of the State Board of Directors for Community Colleges of Arizona, outlined four distinct issues:

• Transfer articulation — making the transition from a two-year to four-year college as seamless as possible;

• Distance education — making learning accessible even though students are far from the actual classroom;

• Remedial education — “catch-up” classes for those not fully prepared for college in certain subjects ; and

• Concurrent enrollment of high school students in community college courses.

What a difference 15 years can make!

Phenomenal growth

Dual-enrollment and dual-credit programs have been booming in every state during the past 15 years. In 2008, authors Richard Lynch and Freida Hill noted that the state of Georgia enrolled 17,442 high school students in state technical, industrial or business college programs between July 1, 2001, and June 30, 2004. This was a 93 percent increase over the three-year period.

This growth in technical colleges has become one of the major shifts in dual-enrollment programs, which previously had focused on high performing students. And seldom had programs been developed with economically and educationally disadvantaged students in mind.

In fall 2007, 64,910 students were enrolled in dual-credit classes in Texas. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board identified this as a five-fold increase over 1999 enrollment. In “Doubling the opportunity for success,” Susan Reese reported that Alamo Community Colleges enrolled more than 5,500 students that fall.

The Illinois Community College Board, which maintains statistics on dual-credit enrollments, shows a very large growth in Illinois. Rob Kerr, ICCB’s director for career and technical education, says enrollment grew from 14,633 in FY 2000 to 82,982 student enrollees in FY 2011. That equates to a 567.5 percent increase in dual-credit enrollments just in this state.

A National Center for Educational Statistics report found 98 percent of the community colleges, 77 percent of public four-year colleges and 40 percent of private four-year institutions were enrolling high school students in college courses for credit.  

Some early beginnings

Writing in 1999 for the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, C.R. McCarthy said: “If we let your child learn the next grade level curriculum now, what will we teach him or her next year? Neither teacher nor parent finds tolerable the image of a 12th grader, or even occasionally a younger student, sitting through a year of school with nothing to learn. The most acceptable remedy has been to dole it out at a pace too slow for bright students.”

Syracuse University has been a dual-enrollment leader, starting its program in 1972 by offering courses in New York and several other states. It became a model for other university programs over the years and has now expanded to 165 classes, with more than 8,000 students in four states.

Through Project Advance, Syracuse partners with more than 180 high schools to offer qualified high school students the opportunity to enroll in SU courses for credit. These basic introductory courses fit well into most college and university curriculums and are the same as taught on the main university campus.

Project Advance originated to address growing concerns about “senioritis”: senior-year boredom among capable high school students who complete most graduation requirements by the end of their junior year. From the original six schools in the pilot, the program now serves more than 165 high schools in New York, New Jersey, Maine and Michigan, with the largest concentration in New York. According to Project Advance, approximately 8,000 students enroll annually in SU courses, taught by more than 700 high school faculty members with SU adjunct instructor appointments.

The National Association of Concurrent Enrollment Programs (NACEP) was started in 1999 by a number of colleges with dual-enrollment programs and has offered itself as an accrediting body since 2004. Membership includes universities, community colleges and some secondary schools. Elena Sampson, NACEP membership chair, referred to the programs in dual-enrollment/dual-credit as “the best kept secret in terms of college-cost savings”

The association now has standards of excellence, research and advocacy of programs as part of its key mission.  

Outcomes for students

In The Dual-Credit Phenomenon! Challenging secondary school students across 50 states, I summarized various outcomes that students can obtain by enrolling in dual-enrollment or dual-credit classes:

• An opportunity to enroll in college course work while still in high school;

• An opportunity to gain marketable technical or vocational skills not offered by the secondary school;

• An opportunity to earn up to one semester of college credit prior to (or immediately following) high school graduation;

• An opportunity to earn up to one to two years of college work prior to (or immediately following) high school graduation;

The completion of a semester, a year or even two years of college credit may involve attending summer programs while still in high school or the summer following graduation.

Virginia ’s community colleges list these advantages on their website:  

• Provides college-level instruction to high school students, during regular school hours.

• Accelerates a student’s college career and provides quality, affordable education close to home.

• Enriches the course opportunities for outstanding high school students both in academic coursework and in career and technical education.

• Allows students to enter college with credits applicable to their degree program.

• Helps students understand the rigor of college work as well as college faculty expectations.

• Provides access to college resources, facilities and services such as advising, career counseling and mentoring.

These advantages can usually be found on websites of each participating college. They are similar from state-to-state and college-to-college but there are unique programs that offer other advantages.

Student feedback

The Columbia County ( Georgia) News-Times reported the following in 2011: “Erika Blair was Harlem High School’s STAR student but attended the Advanced Academy program starting at age 15 at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton.   When she graduated from high school in 2011, she also completed her sophomore year of college.”

Surveys of students enrolled in dual-credit or dual-enrollment classes while in high school have been highly supportive of having the programs continue in their secondary schools. Comments of students who continued on to college or university studies following the Fast Forward Program enrollment of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro were:

• I think Fast Forward is the best-advanced learning program there is.

• I am closer to graduating because of transferred credit.

• I hope the program stays at my high school and others.   It’s a terrific way to prepare for college.   I love that my college credit wasn’t dependent on one test!!

• The Fast ForwardProgram gave me the chance to get classes out of the way.   I will be a junior in the fall, credit-wise — but it will only be my second year of college. This is a great opportunity!

Other students, two years after graduating from Marquette High School in Ottawa, Illinois, responded to a survey I conducted about their program:

• The instructors were the best teachers I ever had. The program made me understand what college will be like. It took the fear out of me.

• Teachers were always willing to help. They didn’t hold back material they didn’t think we could handle.

• The program was all around excellent. The way the instructors treated me was great because they didn’t seem to think of us as any less than those students on campus.

• They gave us a chance to experience college. The differences between high school and college really showed. The teachers are excellent!

• The experience was extremely valuable. They gave me enough hours, so that with summer courses, I can graduate in three years.

• It has been the most valuable learning experience that I received at MHS.

• Two of the community college professors are the best I’ve had in my college career so far.

This type of feedback is very common as students see the value of the challenge of dual-enrollment and dual-credit programs during their last two years of high school.

Making it work

The key to dual-credit and dual-enrollment courses is the quality of the instructors assigned to teach these students. University professors, community college teachers and secondary school teachers are all used to teach these classes. Secondary teachers must have the same credentials as the other two college levels. For transfer classes, a master’s degree in the field of study is usually required.

Secondary teachers in technical and vocational areas must also meet the same academic or experience requirements as community college or university faculty. Due to a lack of facilities and high technology equipment in most secondary schools, the courses most often are held in community college or university classrooms and labs and are taught by their teachers. Where vocation and technical centers flourish in secondary school settings, then basic level classes can be offered there and often the vocational-technical teachers at the center teach the course syllabus of the college course.

One of the unplanned, but significant, outcomes of the Marquette High School program in Ottawa in the late 1980s was the change it created throughout the school system.  

The college tested all candidates for college English courses that were going to be offered in the fall. A fairly high percentage of students the first fall did not pass the entry exam and did not qualify for the college level course. They were directed back to the school’s senior English course.  

This put pressure on those English teachers in grades 8-11 to bring these students up to the level they would need to pass the entry exam for college English. Each year the percentage improved for students being ready as teachers learned what needed to be accomplished at each level to have them ready for college English by their senior year.

Parents soon found that their students were able to start full-time college studies after high school graduation at an advanced level. Whether at a community college or university, students could enroll earlier (as returning students), enroll in more advanced classes and some started as a sophomore right out of high school. A few students, who have been able to complete a two-year associate degree, start as college or university juniors, a phenomenon that is growing rapidly.

Parents also felt a financial burden lifted for either 25 percent to 50 percent of the cost of college leading to a baccalaureate degree. This could range from $6,000 to $35,000 or more a year depending on whether the continuing enrollment was in a state or private college.


How can I summarize the many changes in this fast-growing program during the past 20 years?  

All 50 states are now participating. Most have developed guidelines to help direct the growth and coordination between K-12 schools and higher education. The U.S. DOE now recognizes these programs as an integral and important part of the educational change it endorses.

Is dual-enrollment/dual-credit the most dramatic and meaningful program in education over the last 40 to 50 years? With the way it has gained such wide acceptance in all areas of education, it would appear it might well be the number one program added during those years.  

It has already expanded well beyond its early roots of preparing students in the more traditional transfer course offerings of a freshman year of college. It now offers a two-year Associate Degree option. It also introduces students from all economic and social levels to opportunities in college baccalaureate transfer courses, as well as technical and vocational educational programs.

The future of such programs will be limited only by the imagination of the movement’s leaders and the schools that choose to get involved.   

Editor’s note

Hans A. Andrews’ book, The Dual-Credit Phenomenon! Challenging secondary school students across 50 states, is the only comprehensive book in the market on the topic. He can be reached at


Hans A. Andrews, The Dual-credit Phenomenon!   Challenging secondary school students across 50 states, New Forums Press, Inc., Stillwater, Oklahoma, 2001

Jackie L. Davis and Hans A. Andrews, “Dual credit: Delivery options for secondary students,” On Research and Leadership Update, Champaign, Illinois, 2001

Sam Dillon, “High schools to offer plan to graduate 2 years early,” The New York Times, February 18, 2010,

Dual credit , Illinois Community College Board,, 2011

Donnie Fedder, “Harlem STAR student nearly halfway to her college degree,” The Columbia County New-Times, 2011 ,    

Scott Jaschik, “The spread of dual enrollment,” Inside Higher Education, 2005,

C.R. McCarthy, “Dual-enrollment programs:   Legislation helps high school students enroll in college courses,” Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 1999

“Benefits of accreditation,” National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), 2011,

Melanie Brisbon, “Letting the data do the talking,” Community College Times, December 5, 2008

Melinda M. Karp, Thomas R. Bailey, Katherine L. Hughes and Baranda J. Fermin, Update to state dual enrollment policies: Addressing access and quality ,   Community College Research Center, Columbia University, New York, 2005

Richard Lynch and Freida Hill, “Dual enrollment in Georgia’s high schools and technical colleges,” Techniques, October 2008

National Commission on the high school senior year , U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C., 2001

Chris Plummer, “College-cost breaks: States offering discounted college classes to high schoolers,” Market Watch, September 9, 2008,

Project Advance, About us, Syracuse University, April 5, 2011,

Donald E. Puyear, Concurrent and dual enrollment of high school students in Arizona Community Colleges: A status report, Arizona State Board for Community Colleges, Phoenix, Arizona, 1998

Susan Reese, “Doubling the opportunity for success,” Techniques, October 2008

Nick Soave, Motivation, student engagement and dual credit programs, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, 2011, motivation-student-engagement-and-dual-credit-programs

“Teen graduates from college, high school just weeks apart,” The Daily Times, Ottawa, Illinois, May 15, 2001

Virginia ’s Community Colleges, Dual enrollment: Get a head start on your education, 2011,  

Defining the terminology

The terms dual-credit and dual-enrollment offer a degree of confusion for many educators, students and parents. The Illinois Community College Board uses the follow definitions, which are fairly universal across the country, although wording may vary slightly:

Dual-Credit is an instructional arrangement where an academically qualified student currently enrolled in high school enrolls in a college-level course and, upon successful course completion, concurrently earns both college credit and high school credit.

Dual-Enrollment is an academically qualified student who is still enrolled in high school but also enrolls in a college-level course at the community college. On successful completion, the student exclusively earns college credit, but no high school credits are earned.

Unique dual programs

Numerous experimental programs are being developed to meet the needs of students who are ready for college work while still in high school.

In February 2010, TheNew York Times announced a program that will offer high school students a way to graduate two years early. By passing a battery of tests in English, math, science and history, a 10th grade student will be able to move into a community college program. Organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy, the program began in 2011 and is modeled after high-performing programs in Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore after initial funding through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As reported in Community College Times, Waubonsee Community College in Illinois has been running the Dunham Academy on an inner city campus in Aurora. It has provided a means of integrating students into a highly respected college challenge with start-up funding from the Dunham Fund, a local foundation. Students come from the underserved student populations of both East and West Aurora high schools and include a high percentage of low-income, ethnic minorities and/or first generation college students.

A study of 17,442 dual-enrolled students, conducted with the Technical College System of Georgia from 2001 to 2004, found the following results for dual-enrolled students:

• High school-technical college dual enrollment increased 93 percent over the period of the study.

• The majority of students enrolled in industrial or business programs.

• For the most part, enrollees mirrored the high school population as a whole. The main differences were that more students from low-income groups and the technology/career prep were now taking more college-level courses than would have been expected based upon their historical data. (Most all of the 17,442 dual enrolled students experienced academic success in the dual-enrolled technical college courses; a total of 9,358 transitioned into a Georgia public college after high school graduation.)

• The program proved that economically and educationally disadvantaged students can succeed if given the opportunity to enroll in college courses.   This was not the focus of the more traditional dual-credit or dual-enrollment programs.

In Louisiana in 2008, the Shreveport-Bossier campus reported it had students enrolled in the following areas of career technical education: culinary arts, graphic communications, network specialist, drafting and design technology, carpentry, air conditioning and repair, automotive technology, and several others.

In 2001, Jackie L. Davis and I found the following courses being offered on the Olney Central College campus for technical and career students: collision repair, automotive service, Cisco networking, web designer certification, woodworking and industrial maintenance.

Chris Plummer of Market Watch studied what was happening in dual-credit and dual-enrollment programs around the country in 2008. A unique program in Utah had high school students obtaining two years of college credit during a summer session after they graduated. These two-year college graduates are then offered university tuition discounts at 30 percent of the normal rate during their junior and senior year at the state’s public universities.

Plummer also showed that Arizona permits students of any age to participate in dual-enrollment classes, not just juniors and seniors as stated in previous guidelines. He found New York state offering more than 60 classes to more than 100,000 juniors and seniors, who had to have a minimum B- average to enroll. California offered both juniors and seniors a $1/credit dual-credit classes that were offered to other students but still had openings to take the dual-credit students.

In “Motivation, student engagement and dual-credit programs,” Nick Soave reported dual-credit has started in some Canadian provinces as a way to help motivate students in secondary schools.   Ontario’s program allows students to take up to four credits that count at both the secondary school and college level as in the United States. During the 2009-10 school year, only about 1.3 percent of Ontario students enrolled in college-level dual credit programs. At that time there were no programs targeting their students at risk.

Writing for the United States Department of Education, Melinda Karp, Thomas R. Bailey, Katherine L. Hughes and Baranda J. Fermin produced an analysis of state dual-enrollment polices in 2005. Among their findings were that Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and West Virginia all have state policies that provide for oversightof program quality.

In Tennessee, superintendents must approve course content. West Virginia has extensive state policies and procedures for dual-enrollments with oversight for quality control.

At a statewide conference in Chicago in 1988, 16 people showed up to learn about the beginning programs in dual-credit offered in Illinois. At that time only two community colleges districts out of 39 offered dual-credit programs.

In the fall 2008 in Springfield, more than 250 people participated at the Dual-Credit Summit, sponsored by the Illinois Community College Board. All 39 college districts were offering dual-credit programs by then and representatives at the meeting were from the community colleges, state and private universities, governmental agencies, nonprofit social agencies, superintendents and principals of secondary schools, employment agencies, and state legislators.

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