'Dual credits' aren't very helpful, but that can be fixed
Dual-credit programs are supposed to put students "on the fast track" to an affordable college degree, but many teens are earning credits that don't help them reach college or career goals, reports Sarah D. Sparks in Education Week. Many credits earned in high school don't transfer or aren't relevant to students' future major or career field.
"Taking dual-credit courses in high school only saved the equivalent of a few months to one semester of college, and didn’t significantly cut most students’ loan debt," she writes.
Four out of five high schools partner with a nearby community college or university to offer dual credit, according to a report by the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia. It's great for community colleges, which suffered heavy enrollment loses due to the pandemic, says researcher John Fink. One in five community college students is now in a high school dual-credit program. Colleges are building a pipeline of future students.
But it's not doing much for low-income, first-generation students. Many programs provide “random acts of dual credit,” the report concluded.
Fink and colleagues want to create dual enrollment equity pathways (DEEP) that "lead to family-supporting, career-path jobs for students who might not otherwise pursue education after college."
DEEP partnerships are working to link dual-credit courses to valuable career and college-degree programs, writes Sparks. "For example, Miami-Dade public schools and Miami-Dade College ensured that dual-credit classes matched the course labeling and credit system used statewide in two- and four-year degree programs," so credits will transfer automatically to colleges across the state.
In addition, they added new pathways to high-demand careers.
In Goose Creek, Texas, dual-credit courses now align "both with the Texas college entrance exam and the most popular local career fields," writes Sparks. "They launched more focused credit pathways, such as global business and a future teacher academy."
The district helps teachers qualify to teach dual-credit courses. Lee College pays a stipend. Both pay advisers who help students select courses, choose degree programs, plan for college and apply for financial aid. Career and college planning now starts in middle school.
Dual-credit courses taught in high school by high school teachers are risky, writes Michael B. Horn in Forbes. "When done well," dual-credit classes can benefit students, Horn writes. But are they done well? It's not clear. Will the credits transfer? On average, transfer students lose 43 percent of credits, the equivalent of four courses.
William Kimani earned so many dual credits he was graduated from high school with an associate degree, reports Kirk Carapezza on Marketplace. He hoped to save time and money on his bachelor's degree, but the University of Chicago didn't accept any of his community college credits.