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Dual Enrollment of High School Students at Postsecondary Institutions: 2002-03
NCES 2005008
April 2005


This report provides data from a nationally representative survey of Title IV degree-granting postsecondary institutions on the topic of dual enrollment of high school students. Dual enrollment, also known as "dual credit," "concurrent enrollment," and "joint enrollment," refers to the participation in college-level courses and the earning of college credits by high school students. Dual enrollment is viewed as providing high school students benefits such as greater access to a wider range of rigorous academic and technical courses, savings in time and money on a college degree, promoting efficiency of learning, and enhancing admission to and retention in college. By providing a pathway for students to move seamlessly between K12 and postsecondary systems, dual enrollment is thought to promote greater support for students' college aspirations and greater collaboration between high schools and colleges (Bailey and Karp 2003; Clark 2001). In an effort to prepare high school students for college, 38 states have enacted dual enrollment policies that support the development of programs that promote a smoother transition between high school and postsecondary education (Karp et al. 2004). However, at present, there is no existing national source of information on dual enrollment of high school students at postsecondary institutions. The "Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students" survey, undertaken by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Institute of Education Sciences, was designed to provide policymakers, researchers, educators, and administrators with baseline information on the prevalence and characteristics of dual enrollment programs.

While the majority of the survey's questions focused on dual enrollment programs, several key questions also revealed the prevalence of college coursetaking outside of dual enrollment programs by high school students. The survey was requested by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. The front page of the survey included a definition and description of dual enrollment (see appendix B). For this study, dual enrollment was defined as high school students who earn college credits for courses taken through a postsecondary institution. The definition specified that courses could be part of a dual enrollment program, or courses could be taken outside of a dual enrollment program. A dual enrollment program was defined as an organized system with special guidelines that allows high school students to take college-level courses. The guidelines might delineate entrance or eligibility requirements, funding, limits on coursetaking, and so on. High school students who simply enrolled in college courses and were treated as regular college students were not considered to be participating in a dual enrollment program. Credit for courses could be earned at both the high school and college level simultaneously or only at the college level, and credit could be earned immediately or upon enrollment at the postsecondary institution after high school graduation. Courses could be taught on a college campus, on a high school campus, or at some other location. The time frame for the survey was the 200203 12-month academic year, including courses taken during summer sessions.1 The survey definition also specified that information about summer bridge programs for students who had already graduated from high school should not be included.

This survey was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) using the Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS).2 PEQIS is a survey system designed to collect small amounts of issue-oriented data from a previously recruited, nationally representative sample of institutions, with minimal burden on respondents and within a relatively short period of time. Questionnaires for the survey "Dual Enrollment Programs and Courses for High School Students" were mailed in February 2004 to the PEQIS survey coordinators at the approximately 1,600 Title IV degreegranting postsecondary institutions in the 50 states and the District of Columbia that compose the PEQIS panel. Coordinators were informed that the survey was designed to be completed by the person(s) at the institution most knowledgeable about the institution's dual enrollment programs and courses. Respondents were given the option of completing the survey online. Data were adjusted for questionnaire nonresponse and weighted to yield national estimates that represent all Title IV-eligible, degree-granting institutions in the United States.3 The unweighted response rate was 92 percent, and the weighted response rate4 was 93 percent. Detailed information about the survey methodology is provided in appendix A, and the questionnaire can be found in appendix B.

Survey respondents at selected postsecondary institutions were asked to report on the prevalence of college coursetaking by high school students at their institutions during the 200203 12- month academic year, both within and outside of dual enrollment programs. Among institutions with dual enrollment programs, additional information was obtained on the characteristics of programs, including course location and type of instructors, program and course curriculum, academic eligibility requirements, and funding. Institutions with dual enrollment programs were also asked whether they had programs specifically geared toward high school students at risk of education failure; if they answered yes, they were asked a series of questions about the features of such special programs. The primary focus of this report is to present national estimates on dual enrollment. In addition, selected survey findings are presented by the following institution characteristics:

  • Institution type: public 2-year, private 2-year, public 4-year, and private 4-year. Institution type was created from a combination of level (2-year and 4-year) and control (public and private). Two-year institutions are defined as institutions at which the highest level of offering is at least 2 but less than 4 years (below the baccalaureate degree); 4-year institutions are those at which the highest level of offering is 4 or more years (baccalaureate or higher degree). Private institutions comprise private nonprofit and private for-profit institutions; these institutions are reported together because there are too few private for-profit institutions in the survey sample to report them as a separate category.
  • Size of institution: less than 3,000 students, 3,000 to 9,999 students, and 10,000 or more students. These are referred to in the text as small, medium, and large institutions, respectively.

In general, comparisons by these institution characteristics are presented only where significant differences were detected and follow meaningful patterns. It is important to note that the characteristics of type and size are related to each other. For example, private institutions tend to be smaller than public ones. However, this E.D. TAB report focuses on bivariate relationships between the analysis variables (institution type and size) and questionnaire variables rather than on more complex analyses.5

All specific statements of comparison made in this report have been tested for statistical significance through t-tests and are significant at the 95 percent confidence level. However, only selected findings are presented for each topic in the report. Throughout this report, differences that may appear large may not be statistically significant due to the relatively large standard errors surrounding the estimates (because of the small sample size). A detailed description of the statistical tests supporting the survey findings can be found in appendix A.

Interested readers may refer to a companion E.D. TAB report, published by NCES, entitled Dual Credit and Exam-Based Courses in U.S. Public High Schools: 200203 (Waits, Setzer, and Lewis 2005). The companion report describes nationally representative findings from a complementary high school-level survey requested by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education and conducted by NCES through the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS). Unlike the survey for the current report, which focused more broadly on dual enrollment, the FRSS survey focused on dual credit, where dual credit was defined as a course or program where high school students can earn both high school and postsecondary credits for the same course.

1 The summer session included in the 200203 12-month academic year (i.e., the summer session of 2002 or the summer session of 2003) was whichever one each institution considered to be part of that 12-month academic year.

2 More information about PEQIS may be found at

3 Institutions participating in Title IV federal student financial aid programs (such as Pell grants or Stafford loans) are accredited by an agency or organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, have a program of over 300 clock hours or 8 credit hours, have been in business for at least 2 years, and have a signed Program Participation Agreement with the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE), U.S. Department of Education. Degree-granting institutions are those that offer an associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, or first-professional degree (Knapp et al. 2001).

4 All weighted response rates were calculated using the base weight (i.e., the inverse of the probability of selection).

5 E.D. TAB reports focus on the presentation of selected descriptive data in tabular format. This report did not control for the interrelationships between the analysis variables of institution type and size.



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