Olga Rodriguez, center director and senior fellow of the PPIC Higher Education Center, testified before the Assembly Higher Education Committee’s Oversight Hearing on Dual Enrollment in Sacramento on November 6, 2023. Here are her prepared remarks.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify this afternoon. My name is Olga Rodriguez, senior fellow and director of the PPIC Higher Education Center. PPIC is an independent and nonpartisan policy research organization and does not take positions on legislation. My comments draw on PPIC’s research, which examined the landscape of dual enrollment in California and the community college outcomes of former dual enrollees.
In California and nationally, dual enrollment—which provides opportunities for high school students to take college courses and earn college credit—had historically been used by higher achieving students as a means to acquire an advantage on their path to college.
However, over the last 10-plus years, programs and policy changes have broadened access to dual enrollment to underachieving students and those underrepresented in higher education. In PPIC’s first study, we identified three primary approaches to dual enrollment, each with key differences in the students served and program structure.
The newest program is known as the College and Career Access Pathways, or CCAP. It was established by Assembly Bill 288 in 2016 and aimed to broaden access to students who have been historically underserved, including those not already on the college pathway. This approach, now implemented at over 80 colleges, helps eliminate some of the logistical hurdles in traditional dual enrollment by allowing courses to be offered in high school campuses closed to high school students.
Over time, CCAP has driven much of the dual enrollment growth, accounting for over 20% of participation for the class of 2020. Furthermore, CCAP is leading to more equitable access for the state’s largest student population—Latino students. The Los Angeles region has the highest representation among CCAP programs.
Next, we identified 17 Middle and 26 Early College High Schools; these programs are whole school reforms that typically select students during middle school, often based on prior academic achievement. The schools themselves are small and often co-located on a college campus, allowing students to complete up to two years of college credits. Community colleges are partners for all middle college programs, while early college programs also partner with some CSUs and UCs.
Black students are represented equitably in these programs, and white and Asian students are overrepresented. Middle college high schools are more common in the Central Valley, while early college high schools are more common in the Bay Area.
The majority of dual enrollment occurs in other types of approaches. Some in this group are locally established partnerships between colleges and districts that may focus on particular pathways. This group also includes concurrent enrollment, which consists of high school students taking college courses independently.
We also sought to shed light on college-going rates among dual enrollment students. We find that about 8 out of every 10 DE students enrolled at a two- or four-year college within 12 months of graduating from high school, compared to about two-thirds for all high school seniors.
Importantly, these data show that where students go to college varies by DE pathway. While all DE students enroll at a community college in higher shares, nearly half of CCAP participants enroll at a CCC—most of these CCAP students enrolled at the college where they took their CCAP courses. Four-year colleges account for nearly half of enrollments for students from other DE programs.
Our recent publication describes the outcomes of dual enrollees who enrolled at a community college—including completion of transfer-level math and English, first-year GPA, and certificate and degree completion. We find that all dual enrollees do better across these outcomes than peers who did not participate in DE.
I want to call attention to transfer-level English and math, two courses a student must complete on the path to a college degree. We find that, compared to peers who did not participate in DE, dual enrollees were more likely to complete transfer-level math and English within one year.
Higher shares of CCAP participants also achieve other key outcomes within one to three years compared non-dual enrollees. However, lower shares of CCAP students achieve these outcomes compared to other dual enrollees.
We also conducted over 40 interviews with dual enrollment leaders across both studies; our policy recommendations are informed by our analysis of the student data and these interviews. For the sake of time, I’ll highlight only a few of our recommendations.
The first recommendation comes from our first report, and it calls for addressing instructor capacity. On this, I want to highlight the efforts already occurring in the Central Valley through investments in K–16 collaboratives.
- Our report highlights the work being done to upskill high school math and English teachers with master’s degrees so they can teach transfer-level courses through dual enrollment.
- We also note that colleges should explore the option to grant equivalencies. In this way, instructors who teach high school AP courses can also teach the dual enrollment equivalent; for example, AP English Composition instructors should be able to teach English 101: College Composition.
The next recommendations relate to the selection of college courses and supports to facilitate student success.
- We recommend that colleges prioritize dual enrollment courses that meet key graduation requirements for K–12, CCC, CSU, and UC.
- We also recommend that colleges build on policy changes that promote equity like AB 288, AB 705, and the ethnic studies graduation requirement—for example, by using CCAP to expand access to transfer-level math, English, or ethnic studies courses.
In our latest report, we recommend options that help students transition to college.
- Dual enrollment can be used to provide college knowledge and navigational skills. Chancellor Christian’s efforts to provide all ninth graders access to a transferrable college planning and career exploration course aligns well with this recommendation.
Last, I will make a pitch to continue to support efforts to link student level data across PK–12, higher education, and the labor market. While our descriptive research suggests that the overall dual enrollment impact is positive, important unanswered questions remain because of this gap in the data.
- For example, we are unable to determine if the students accessing programs like CCAP were already on the college path—such as, through evidence of being on track to complete A–G college admissions requirements.
- It is also unclear if CCAP or other programs are diverting students who would have otherwise been able to enroll at a four-year college, or if programs are warming up college aspirations among the group who was not on a college path.
At PPIC we are committed to continuing to conduct dual enrollment research that helps inform and improve policy and practice. Given the evidence, we believe that dual enrollment, if done intentionally and with equity in mind, has tremendous potential to be a strategy that helps more students enroll in college, complete college faster, and at a lower cost. All in all, realizing the full potential of dual enrollment can help more Californians realize their college aspirations—and help California’s economy thrive.