The impact of dual enrollment at the state’s community colleges is growing: more than 112,000 high school students graduating in the 2019–20 school year enrolled in college courses and earned college credit, representing an increase of 56% from 2015–16. This growth has been partly driven by the launch of College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP) in 2016, which has led to increased Latino participation. Last week, PPIC researchers participated in an online discussion hosted by the College Futures Foundation about ways to promote an equitable expansion of dual enrollment across the state.
PPIC’s Olga Rodriguez and UC Davis’s Michal Kurlaender set the stage for the conversation by outlining complementary research on student access to and success in dual enrollment courses in California community colleges. After that, a panel of experts from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, Fresno Unified School District, and Fresno City College shared insights about using dual enrollment to expand educational opportunity and improve student outcomes.
“We looked at what students need for college success,” said Tressa Overstreet, Fresno Unified’s executive director of college and career readiness. She noted that dual enrollment opportunities are a central strategy in preparing high school students for college. Aisha Lowe, the Community College Chancellor’s Office’s vice chancellor for educational services and support, stressed the importance of dual enrollment in “laying out pathways for students to accelerate and achieve their goals,” which is key to the CCCCO’s Guided Pathways framework. California’s Recovery with Equity Taskforce has also cited dual enrollment as an important way to support college preparation.
PPIC research finds that more than half of CCAP students enroll in a community college after high school graduation. This suggests that Guided Pathway’s efforts to create more structured and supported pathways to community college enrollment and completion are critical to helping ensure students meet their degree and transfer goals. Moreover, given that a third of CCAP courses are in career education, clear pathways are key to providing students the option to pursue a four-year degree.
Maureen Carew, senior program officer at College Futures, stressed the importance of dual enrollment in promoting college completion for groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Given persistent equity gaps in student success in dual enrollment courses, panelists discussed the importance of wrap-around services such as academic and mental health counseling, particularly when dual enrollment courses are offered exclusively on a high school campus.
Robert Pimentel, Fresno City College’s vice president of educational services and institutional effectiveness, noted that “students have access to support and counselling at community colleges, but what happens if we move courses to high school campus? We need to make sure that works.” Tressa Overstreet outlined strategies that include aligning academic and non-academic support and shifting school schedules to ensure that students have access to tutorial services from community colleges.
Data is critical to understanding dual enrollment’s long-term impact—and to reducing equity gaps in college access and completion, as well as labor market outcomes. The panelists agreed that a statewide longitudinal database connecting education, workforce, and social services systems that is currently in development could help policymakers to promote equitable access to dual enrollment and identify pathways that serve historically underrepresented students.