Students Jumping on Dual-Credit Opportunities

High School Student
High School Student | Image by Carol Yepes/Getty Images

Nationwide, there has been a growing demand for dual-credit enrollment programs among high schoolers eager to get a jumpstart on college.

The number of high schoolers earning college credit stands at 981,842, with many taking advantage of dual enrollment programs offered through their schools for technical, career-oriented, or academic coursework. The credit is often offered for free or at a reduced cost through partnerships with local two- and four-year colleges.

“They’re able to kill two birds with one stone, and it saves their families money,” said Julie Soberanis, director of guidance, counseling, and college and career readiness at Irving ISD, per EdTech.

Soberanis noted that her district offers nearly 100 dual-credit courses, approximately 80 of which are through Dallas College. She estimated that families saved around $700,000 in tuition fees in the 2023 school year alone.

Dual-credit courses can also help students explore which fields they may be interested in and where workers are potentially needed locally.

Gary Udouj, director of career education and district innovation at Fort Smith Public Schools in Arkansas, explained to EdTech how the local chamber of commerce commissioned a study to analyze future workforce needs. The study showed that the fields of advanced manufacturing, health sciences, IT and skilled trades, and construction technology had the highest need.

“So, there was a real need for the school district and the community to pull together and build a pipeline to get students interested in these careers,” Udouj said.

Estimates from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center suggest dual enrollment programs also represent the best growth area for some colleges since the COVID-19 lockdowns. For instance, between fall 2022 and spring 2023, an 8% uptick in dual-enrolled high schoolers under age 18 was seen at community colleges nationwide. In contrast, undergraduates at four-year institutions saw an enrollment drop of 0.5% (public) and 0.2% (private) between spring 2022 and spring 2023.

The Dallas Express has reported extensively on the growth of dual-credit opportunities in North Texas. For instance, Collin College has seen significant enrollment growth this past year thanks to its partnerships with local school districts. In 2018, only 7,915 students were enrolled in its dual degree program. By 2023, this figure had jumped to 10,609, representing 28% of its credit enrollment.

For some publicly funded districts seeing declines in student enrollment due to demographic shifts and increased competition from charter and private schools, offering such opportunities has become a key way to lure in potential students. For example, a recent More Choice Expo held at Fair Park in March by Dallas ISD put its extracurricular activities, STEM/STEAM programs, leadership academies, Montessori classrooms, dual language programs, and personalized learning offerings on full display.

Dallas ISD has had academic struggles, with a Texas Education Agency accountability report from 2021-2022 finding that only 41% of students scored at grade level or above, and nearly 20% of its Class of 2022 did not graduate on time.

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