IU scholars co-author studies of Kentucky dual-credit and dual-enrollment courses

  • Sept. 15, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Dual-enrollment and dual-credit programs are making it possible for Kentucky high school students to get a head start on postsecondary education by completing college credits at reduced cost, according to two new studies co-authored by researchers at the Indiana University School of Education's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

But access to the programs is uneven, with some groups of students taking and completing dual-credit courses at higher rates than others, the studies find. And there are barriers to expanding the programs, including a lack of teachers and limited access in isolated areas.

The studies were released by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education and produced by Regional Educational Laboratory Appalachia, which is administered by the nonprofit research organization CNA.

One study, "Dual Enrollment Courses in Kentucky: High School Students' Participation and Completion Rates," describes participation by Kentucky high school juniors and seniors for a four-year period. Authors include IU researchers Chad Lochmiller, Thomas Sugimoto, Patricia Muller, Gina Mosier and Steven Williamson.

The other, "The Implementation of Dual Credit Programs in Six Nonurban Kentucky School Districts," describes policies and practices, student eligibility, postsecondary partnerships and other aspects of the programs. Authors are Mary Piontek and Molly Stewart of IU and Patricia Kannapel and Michael Flory of CNA.

Dual-enrollment courses, in which students take college courses while still in high school, can be taken on a postsecondary campus, on a high school campus or online. Dual-credit courses are typically taught in high schools and provide both high school and college credit.

Both are important to college readiness programs across Kentucky, but there is wide variation in how they are implemented and in student participation and completion. Findings from the statewide study of dual-enrollment programs include:

  • Approximately one in five high school juniors and seniors participated between 2009-10 and 2012-13.
  • Participation rates were higher for female students, white students, students not eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, and students in rural and Appalachian counties.
  • Students completed about 85 percent of dual-enrollment courses in which they enrolled.
  • 22 percent of students who completed such courses earned at least the equivalent of one semester of college credit while in high school.

“The results provide important insights about Kentucky’s efforts to improve college and career readiness for its K-12 public education students,” said Lochmiller, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies in the IU School of Education and the principal investigator for the dual-enrollment report. “This was one of the first studies to use the state’s new longitudinal data system, and, in doing so, it created significant value for the stakeholders."

The study of nonurban districts found that, while each district partners with two or more postsecondary institutions to offer dual-credit courses, there is wide variation in the number and types of courses available and the cost to students. Barriers to expanding programs in nonurban districts include the limited availability of high school teachers with appropriate credentials, limited access to courses and instructors, and costs to students and families.

The IU researchers say insights from the studies can inform policy and practice and pave the way for future work on Kentucky's growing dual-enrollment and dual-credit programs. For example, more students are taking courses online, raising questions about how to best provide access to courses and programs. The studies also raise questions about how colleges and universities can provide assistance to student groups that are under-represented in dual-enrollment courses.

Future research could explore whether there are barriers that make it less likely for poor, minority and male students to participate in the programs and how such barriers could be overcome. Also, further research is needed about the nature and quality of dual-enrollment courses in various regions and the supports needed to boost success for students in rural and high-poverty schools.

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Media Contacts

Chad Lochmiller

  • Center for Evaluation and Education Policy
  • Office 812-856-0895
  • clochmil@indiana.edu

Patricia Kannapel

  • CNA
  • kannapelp@cna.org