What is Dual Enrollment?
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By Kathryn Flynn

May 25, 2019

Dual enrollment allows high school students to take college classes while they are still enrolled in high school. These classes count for both high school and college credit. High school students who complete dual-enrollment classes generally take fewer classes in college and save money on total college costs. 

Not all students are eligible to take dual-enrollment classes. Requirements vary by state, but in most cases, students must be a junior or senior in high school and maintain a minimum GPA to participate in dual enrollment. In some cases, dual-enrollment classes are available to students who have completed most of their high school graduation requirements.

How dual enrollment works

Dual enrollment, also referred to as dual credit, allows current high students to take college-level classes that count for high school and college credit. The types of dual-enrollment classes offered varies by high school district, but many include introductory college coursework in subjects like Humanities, English, Math, Social Studies and Science. 

Most dual-enrollment classes are taken at the student’s high school, local community college or online. Home-schooled students may also take dual-enrollment courses if they meet state requirements. Dual-enrollment classes are available for students pursuing a Bachelor’s degree, Associate’s degree or Career and Technical Education certificates.

To earn college credit, students must pass a dual-enrollment class with a C or better. The grade earned will be part of the student’s college academic record. Unlike AP classes, students do not have to pass an exam to earn college credit. College admissions counselors may consider dual-enrollment grades during the admissions process.

However, not all colleges accept dual-enrollment credits. An in-state public college is more likely to accept dual-enrollment credits than out-of-state public colleges or private colleges. Students should research their dual-enrollment options and meet with their school counselor before enrolling in a dual-enrollment class.

Dual-enrollment requirements

Dual-enrollment requirements vary by state. Many states only offer dual-enrollment classes to high school juniors and seniors. Three states require dual-enrollment students to be at least a sophomore in high school, and 12 states require the student to be at least a junior. Some states will allow younger students to take dual-enrollment classes if they are considered gifted.

High school students in Alabama, Florida, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina must have a minimum GPA to participate in dual-enrollment classes, typically at least a 3.0. In many states, students must provide a written recommendation from a teacher, principal, coach or other high school or college staff member to be eligible for dual enrollment. Other eligibility requirements may include:

  • Parent permission
  • College course prerequisites or other course placement criteria
  • Minimum ACT or SAT test scores
  • Entrance requirements set by the college

Dual enrollment helps students save on college costs

Dual enrollment is a cost-effective way to earn college credit. Students who earn college credit during high school generally have to take fewer classes in college to earn a degree. Career and Technical Education students who complete dual-enrollment classes may also be able to enter the workforce sooner. 

Dual-enrollment classes cost between $0 to $400, according to Education Week, which is significantly less than the cost of a traditional college class.

Dual-enrollment tuition costs may be covered by the state, the student’s high school district, the student or their parent, or some combination of these. In nine states, the student or their parents are primarily responsible for paying dual-enrollment tuition.

Families who have to pay for dual-enrollment credits may use a 529 plan to cover tuition costs. However, 529 plan withdrawals used to pay for other dual-enrollment expenses, such as books and supplies, will be a considered non-qualified distribution. The earnings portion of a non-qualified 529 plan distribution is subject to income tax and a 10% penalty, and any state tax benefits claimed may be subject to recapture.

Other Benefits of Dual Enrollment

Students who participate in dual-enrollment programs are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in college, enroll full-time in college, earn higher grades in college and graduate from college. They are also more likely to obtain a Bachelor’s degree than an Associate’s degree or certificate.

Several studies have shown that dual-enrollment students are much more likely to graduate from college than students who do not take dual-enrollment classes:

  • A 2017 Illinois study reported that dual enrollment students were nine percentage points more likely to attain a Bachelor’s degree. 
  • This confirms the results of a 2013 national study which reported a 10 percentage point increase in college graduation rates, especially among low-income students. 
  • A 2012 Community College Research Center study also found improvements in high school graduation rates and enrollment in 4-year colleges, plus a reduction in the need for remedial classes in college.

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