Using dual credit to boost student success

By Anna Mays

The mission of Dallas College is to transform lives through higher education. Dual credit, early college high schools and Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) programs advance this mission by expanding access to higher education, promoting secondary and postsecondary retention, and increasing degree attainment for high school students who are historically underrepresented and underserved.

There’s growing research that shows the benefits of dual enrollment. A recent Institute for Higher Education Policy report documented how increasing the postsecondary attainment rate of students of color and from low-income backgrounds generates measurable returns for individuals, communities and society at large. Research findings of the Community College Research Center indicate that students who participate in dual credit are more likely to finish high school, persist in postsecondary education and accumulate college credits than their non-dually enrolled peers. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has also documented the positive effects of dual enrollment on transfer outcomes, including high school grades and completion, college enrollment, college credit accumulation and college degree completion.

This national study parallels Dallas College research, which found that university students with dual credit from the former Dallas County Community College District had a first-year persistence rate of 92.1% and had higher four-year graduation rates than their peers at the university. Nationally, 82% of public high schools offer dual-enrollment coursework, mostly in partnership with community colleges.

Starting early to address challenges

Since the Texas legislature adopted HB505 in 2015, Dallas College has expanded dual-credit enrollment by 133% (from 12,643 to 29,414 in 2021-22), now representing 33% of its credit enrollment, with the majority from Title I high schools and low-income families, and 87% students of color (54% Latino, 20% African American, 13% white, 7% Asian and 6% other).

During the past two years, dual-credit student enrollment increased while adult student enrollment declined. The life circumstances of many adults changed, and they had to reprioritize as financial challenges, family obligations, childcare needs, lack of transportation, health challenges, work demands, new professional opportunities, or any combination of these made continuing with higher education seem impossible.

Dallas has significant workforce challenges that could limit further economic growth:

  • Employers report not having enough skilled and qualified local talent to meet business needs.
  • Only 39% of Dallas County young adults have an associate degree or higher.
  • Only one-in-four adults earn a living wage of $50,000 per year.

To address these workforce challenges, Dallas College has partnered with almost 200 high school partners to offer comprehensive dual-credit courses leading to certificates and degrees, including high-demand career and technical education programs that lead directly to employment. For in-district students, tuition waivers totaling $24.6M enabled students to enroll in dual-credit courses tuition — and debt-free.

Dallas College also expanded its facilities and industry partnerships to implement 85 college and career readiness school models, including 29 early college high schools (ECHS), 41 P-TECH programs — the most in the nation — and 14 Texas Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (T-STEM) Academies. Forty-nine percent of Dallas College dual credit students are now enrolled in a P-TECH and ECHS. Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD) alone has almost 100 industry partners who support career exposure, mentoring, internships and employment opportunities for 8,000 P-TECH/ECHS students.

Moving the dial

In 2019-20, 1,454 graduating high school students received a total of 2,066 Dallas College associate degrees and certificates. In 2021, this increased to 2,335 credentials earned (1,783 associate degrees and 552 certificates).

For Dallas ISD, 10% of the 2021 graduating seniors (919) earned an associate degree, most from high schools that historically had less than 15% of their graduates complete any postsecondary credential within six years after graduation. This year, 2,200 graduating dual-credit students from across Dallas County applied for graduation and participated in Dallas College’s commencement ceremonies before graduating high school. P-Tech graduates now work for Dallas regional employers and industry partners, and other ECHS graduates are pursuing bachelor’s degrees at universities.

Dual-credit students who do not complete an associate degree are also eligible for Dallas County Promise if they attend one of the 57 Promise high schools in Dallas County. There will be 69 high school partners starting this fall. Dallas County Promise, funded by the Dallas College Foundation, covers the gap between need-based financial aid and the cost of tuition at the college for up to three years or the completion of an associate degree, whichever comes first. Students seeking a bachelor’s degree will have up to five years to complete their studies.

Promise Scholars are matched with a Dallas College success coach who serves as a mentor to help students from the end of their high school senior year through college completion. A total of 15,982 Promise students, graduating from high school from 2018 through 2021, have enrolled at Dallas College.

There’s more to the story! Read the full article in CC Daily.

Anna Mays

is vice provost for educational partnerships at Dallas College in Texas.