In today's competitive job market it's nearly impossible to find a job without a postsecondary credential or degree. For example, there have been 11.6 million jobs created since the 2008 economic recession, and an overwhelming majority of these jobs " 11.5 million " have gone to workers with at least some postsecondary education.1
This isn't an anomaly. Demand for educated and trained workers is on the rise. By 2020, two out of every three American jobs will require some postsecondary education. And, at the current rate, the United States will have five million jobs for workers with postsecondary credentials and training, but no workers to fill those jobs.1
For young people, the future will be largely influenced by the quality of their secondary education and the extent of their postsecondary education. As youth organizations devise strategies to increase college placement rates and better prepare students for long-term career success, dual enrollment high school program designs should be considered as a proven tactic for helping students transition from high school into postsecondary education.
What is Dual Enrollment?
Dual enrollment high school is a broad term used to describe any high school curriculum design in which high school students take college courses. The credits students earn can be applied toward a degree at the college providing the coursework, or they can be transferred to another college or university and applied toward a degree at that institution.
Dual enrollment programs aren't new. They've been in use since the 1950s.3 However, these programs have become more common over the past decade as the American economy's need for more highly skilled workers has skyrocketed. As a result, legislators and educators have placed greater emphasis on encouraging " and enabling " high school students to enroll in college and begin working to earn a college degree.
Dual Enrollment is Proven
Dual enrollment programs are proven to increase high school graduation rates, improve college readiness, and improve college placement rates.2 Based on more than a decade of widespread implementation, there is a wealth of research showing dual enrollment college programs are effective at increasing college and career readiness and increasing the number of high school students ultimately enrolling in and graduating from college programs.3
Count the United States government as a believer in the efficacy of dual enrollment programs as well. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) explicitly encourages states to increase the implementation of dual enrollment programs through targeted funding.3 Signed by President Obama in 2015, ESSA is an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is aimed at ensuring all American students are given an equal opportunity to succeed.4
ESSA incentives for dual enrollment programs highlights the government's belief that dual enrollment programs are a key factor for helping Opportunity Youth enroll in postsecondary training after completing high school. Here's why.
Focus on Underserved Populations
Dual enrollment high school programs make college more accessible to students from low-income families in underserved communities. Offering college courses as part of a program that is free for the student, through youth organizations or public high schools, removes a portion of the financial barrier preventing low-income students from enrolling in college. Students don't need to take out a loan to fund college coursework while in a dual enrollment program. Even with the financial aid offered by colleges and universities, it's often prohibitively expensive for low-income families to fund a two- or four-year college education. But, if the student takes college coursework and earns college credit while still enrolled in high school, they can earn a substantial portion of their college credits and make progress towards a college degree free of cost.
Increased College and Career Readiness
Dual enrollment programs prepare students for the rigors of college coursework. This early exposure to college coursework smooths the transition to college by helping students develop the competencies and behaviors necessary to succeed in the postsecondary environment.
This is true for students of all skill levels. Historically, dual enrollment programs were offered only to high-achieving students. Recent research suggests that college experience in high school is equally beneficial for students who do not rank at the top of the class. In fact, studies have shown that GPA gains are more significant for students who don't have GPAs towards the top of their classes.5
Dual enrollment programs are proven. The research suggests you will improve college placement rates for your students if they participate in dual enrollment programs, and your students will be better prepared and more likely to earn their college degree. Dual enrollment also gives Opportunity Youth in underserved communities the ability to earn a college degree without debilitating debt.
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Sources: Photo Credit (1) America's Divided Recovery: College Haves & Have Nots (2) Reinventing High Schools for Postsecondary Success (3) College in High School Alliance " How to Scale College in High School (4) Department of Education, Every Student Succeeds Act (5) Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University " What We Know About Dual Enrollment.