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Dual-Credit Courses Expand in High Schools

Opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school are expanding.

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics found 82 percent of public high schools enrolled students in dual-credit courses, and 69 percent reported enrollments in International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement courses during the 2010-11 academic year.

This translates into 2 million enrollments in dual-credit courses and 3.5 million in AP or IB courses.

In 2002-03, NCES reported 71 percent of high schools offered programs in which students earned credit at both the high school and college levels for the same course, known as "dual credit." Another 67 percent of public high schools had AP courses, while 2 percent enrolled students in IB classes nearly a decade ago.

The latest NCES report notes that about 61 percent of dual-credit courses taught on-site in high schools with an academic focus were taught solely by high school instructors. Schools with a career or technical/vocational focus had about 67 percent of their dual-credit courses at locations for secondary students led by high school instructors only. When the course was held on college campuses and taught by faculty, classes tended to have a mix of high school and college students.

There are expenses associated with taking college-level courses. NCES found that about half of students and their parents paid out of pocket for full or partial tuition, fees, and books, although fewer expenses were incurred by students taking dual-credit courses in career-centered schools. In other instances, the district picked up the costs.

One driver behind the increased participation in college-level courses is school expectation. Nearly 63 percent of schools with dual-enrollment programs made enrolling in such a course a requirement for students, according to the NCES report.

Another report released today from the Colorado education department shows 19 percent of all high school juniors and seniors in that state are taking a college class before graduating from high school. Overall, participation in dual-enrollment programs increased by 15.5 percent between 2010-11 and 2011-12. Colorado data show that students in concurrent enrollment programs are more likely to matriculate to college, have higher credit-hour accumulation and grade point averages, and are more likely to stay in college after the first year.

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