College-in-high-school programs — such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment and early college high school — are popular and impactful. Across the country, states are turning to these models as tools to improve college access and success. Earlier this year, 18 governors discussed earning college credit prior to high school graduation in their state budget highlights, according to the National Governors Association, and new laws passed in more than 16 states addressed some aspect of these programs.
Over the past decade, there has been growth in the number of high school students taking college courses. Unfortunately, access to and engagement in these programs is not equitable: According to 2019 National Center for Education Statistics data, students who are white, Asian or whose parents have a college education are much more likely to participate in dual enrollment than their peers. A new tool from the Community College Research Center (CCRC), drawn from the Civil Rights Data Collection, further indicates that equity gaps persist down to the school district level.
College-in-high-school programs are increasingly used to advance college enrollment and attainment goals, and there is evidence indicating their value in this objective. But there is a work needed to make these programs more accessible for underrepresented students, and state policy plays a vital role in that.
Two recent reports from the College in High School Alliance (CHSA) seek to support state policymakers working to expand access and engagement in these high-impact programs.
The first, “Unlocking Potential: A State Policy Roadmap for Equity and Quality in College in High School Programs,” published in partnership with the Level Up coalition, helps states build a policy framework for college-in-high-school programs that will close equity gaps and promote quality. “Unlocking Potential” details six components and provides policy recommendations for each: (1) equity goal and public reporting, (2) program integrity and credit transfer, (3) finance, (4) course access and availability, (5) instructor capacity and (6) navigational supports. The report also highlights examples from 28 states that showcase an array of existing policies to be learned from and replicated.
The second, “Funding for Equity: Designing State Dual Enrollment Funding Models to Close Equity Gaps,” presents a detailed analysis of state funding approaches. The paper outlines three policy options that eliminate student-borne tuition cost and describes how states are currently funding them. It presents questions that policymakers can consider in designing a funding system to close equity gaps, including lessons learned and best practices from promising dual enrollment funding models currently deployed in states.
The positive impact of college-in-high-school programs can only be realized when equity gaps close and the programs are available to all students who can benefit. CHSA and NACEP are excited to bring these resources to the field. They hope that policymakers will use these two reports, and the new resources by CCRC, to find, understand and close equity gaps in college-in-high-school programs.