Making dual credit programs accessible, equitable for underserved communities

Dual credit programs have become popular pathways to college for high school students eager to get an early start on their postsecondary credentials, The Christian Science Monitor reports. By taking college-level courses while still enrolled in high school, students in dual credit programs have reduced college costs and earn their degree in less time, research shows. Approximately 88% of U.S. high schools offer dual credit courses, and 34% of high school students take at least one college course, according to data from the Department of Education.

However, these programs are often out of reach for the students who need them the most. Among students in the high school class of 2019, one-third of white students took at least one dual credit class during their time in high school, compared to one-quarter of Asian, Native American, and Latinx students, and almost a fifth of Black students, says the Department of Education. Low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities are also underrepresented among students enrolled in these courses due to barriers such as a lack of awareness about programs, exclusionary course prerequisites, and transportation costs.

Related: Program shows underserved teens, elite colleges what’s possible with greater access >

More equitable dual credit programs

To welcome more students from underrepresented groups into dual credit programs, some community colleges are revisiting their eligibility requirements and reducing financial barriers. Four-year historically Black colleges and universities, including South Carolina’s Benedict College and Claflin University, are also reducing transportation expenses by offering courses online.

School districts in New York and Maryland, meanwhile, are following the Department of Education’s call to invest a portion of pandemic recovery funds to expand access to dual enrollment opportunities by hiring more instructors, purchasing course materials for students, and recruiting English learners. Experts are urging more institutions to subsidize these kinds of programs, as parents in some states are responsible for covering some or all tuition costs, according to data from the Education Commission of the States.

The College Exposure-Dual Enrollment Program at Georgetown

As part of Georgetown’s commitment to improving access to higher education for students from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, the university welcomes selected rising high school seniors from District of Columbia Public High Schools to take first-year college-level courses through the College Exposure-Dual Enrollment Program. Led by Georgetown’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access, the program allows participating students to earn college credit and eases the transition to campus life.

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