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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Dual credit doesn’t help weak students

Dual-credit (or dual enrollment) programs are expanding rapidly across the nation. Students — not just high achievers — usually take college-level classes at a nearby community college or at their own high school. In Texas, the number of dual-credit students has grown more than 10-fold from 2000 to 2016.

Dual-credit students are 2.4 percent more likely than similar classmates to enroll in college, according to the 15-year study conducted for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board by American Institutes for Research. Their college-completion rate is 1.1 percentage points higher and, on average, they graduate one month sooner.

East Texas high school students dissect a cat in a dual-credit anatomy and physiology course at Tyler Junior College.

However, there was no benefit for academically weak students, report Alejandro Matos and Shelby Webb in the Houston Chronicle. Taking dual-credit courses helped college-ready students, most of whom come from white, higher-income families.

Dual-enrollment advocates see it as a way to improve access to rigorous coursework and raise college-going rates for disadvantaged students, who are less likely to take college-prep courses.

“Access without preparation is not opportunity,” said Raymund Paredes, Texas’ commissioner of higher education. “If students are not prepared academically to do college level work, it can backfire.”

Black and Latino students who took dual-credit courses were more likely to enroll at two-year colleges, but there was no effect on college completion rates, reports KERA. The impact was negative for dual-credit students from lower-income families, probably because they tended to be less prepared academically.

The study did not include early college high schools, which aim to help students earn an associate degree while in high school.

Dual-credit students who make it to the University of Texas praise the program for teaching them time-management, study and communication skills, concludes a new University of Texas study.

Some said it increased their confidence and sense of “fitting in” on campus. But others said dual credit gave them a false sense of confidence. Some regretted having less time in college to explore because they’d already met their requirements.

Dual-credit students had higher grades and were more likely to earn a UT degree. However, students graduated only one semester earlier and, except for those who entered with 60 or more credit hours, dual-credit participation had little effect on students’ debt.

Faculty members “voice concerns about the quality and rigor of dual credit opportunities offered in Texas,” the study found.

Washington state’s Running Start program — college tuition is free, but students must pay for transportation, textbooks and fees — is wildly successful, reports Katherine Long in the Seattle Times.

But “Running Start mostly helps middle-class students who were already planning to go to college.” Most are white or Asian-American. Fewer than 5 percent of Running Start students come from low-income families

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