Keeping Tabs on Dual Enrollment


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 The latest update to Education Commission of the States’ 50-State Comparison on dual/concurrent enrollment was released last week. This is the third update to this resource initially released in 2008. As with previous editions, the 2016 update shows some encouraging improvements in state policy – but also shows there are plenty of opportunities for states to enhance their policies on this issue.

Some of the highlights from the 2016 update:

  • Big changes: Several states completely overhauled their dual enrollment policies in 2015. These include Kentucky, where the Council on Postsecondary Education and Kentucky Department of Education collaborated to adopt a dual credit policy that fairly closely aligns with Education Commission of the States’ 13 model policy components for dual enrollment, and Rhode Island, where the board of education adopted regulations last spring that address most of the 13 model policy components.
  • More states allowing students to get college-ready before college via dual enrollment: Getting any necessary postsecondary remediation out of the way before students go on to college saves everyone time, money and frustration. Three additional states – California, Massachusetts and Nevada – were recognized in the 2016 update as allowing students to complete developmental, non-credit-bearing coursework via dual enrollment programs, bringing the total to nine states with such policies.
  • More states requiring high schools or districts to offer dual enrollment: Ten states – up from eight states in 2015 – now either require districts to enter into a partnership with one or more postsecondary institutions, or make clear that neither districts nor postsecondary institutions may deny dual enrollment participation to an otherwise eligible student.
  • Fewer caps on number of dual enrollment credits students may earn: Today, only four states limit the number of dual enrollment courses a high school student may complete in a semester or academic year, or during the student’s high school career, regardless of which dual enrollment program a student is in – down from seven states with such caps just a year ago (five additional states set a cap in one or more dual enrollment programs in the state, but not in another). And where those caps exist, they are much more generous than the caps of 2008 – currently limiting students to 24 to 30 credits in an academic year, which still means students can be enrolled almost full-time in postsecondary coursework.
  • More states requiring counseling/advising: Twenty-two states require that prospective or current dual enrollment participants receive counseling/advising before and/or during program participation, up from 20 states in 2015.
  • Greater state financial investment: Five states – up from four in 2015 – now are the entity responsible for paying dual enrollment tuition.

And there are many other policy successes in the dual/concurrent enrollment 50-State Comparison. That said, there are plenty of opportunities for improvement as well. For example, while 10 states require that eligible students have access to dual enrollment programs, the offering of such opportunities is completely at the discretion of districts and postsecondary institutions in 28 states (in six states, there are multiple programs, and offering of dual enrollment is mandatory for one program but not another; in three states, policies do not specify whether high school and postsecondary partners must offer dual enrollment; and three additional states do not have statewide policies governing dual enrollment programs).

Are you a policymaker or staff for a policymaker or state agency, and interested in enhancing your state’s dual enrollment policies? Contact Jennifer Zinth ( to see how Education Commission of the States might be able to provide counsel or convene key stakeholders to move dual enrollment policy forward in your state. 

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