Dual enrollment is the practice of allowing a high school student to simultaneously enroll in college courses for credit. Any college credits earned would apply to their pursuit of an undergraduate degree after the student receives their high school diploma, GED certificate, or similar accreditation. It is a practice that is generally reserved for juniors and seniors, but some schools allow sophomores and freshmen to earn these credits.
The primary benefit of dual enrollment is that it can give students a head start toward an undergraduate degree and eventual vocational career. The requirements are communicated clearly during the enrollment process. Students know what their minimum GPA must be, how many hours or courses they can take, and other specific requirements that may apply to their unique situation.
The one big disadvantage of dual enrollment is that it limits the student’s ability to choose a college or university after they graduate from high school. Not all schools will accept dual enrollment courses for credit. That forces students to apply only to colleges or universities that will accept the credits they have earned or lose them.
Here are some more of the pros and cons of dual enrollment to think about before getting started.
Additional Pros of Dual Enrollment
1. It is cheaper that college tuition.
Dual enrollment is one of the most affordable ways for students to earn college credits. The per-credit hour for some concurrent programs is even nothing. In the United States, a 4-year private college, listed as a not-for-profit institution, averaged a cost per credit of $1038.69 in 2017. Even public 4-year colleges charged $325 per credit in 2017. Earning 12 credits through dual enrollment could therefore save some students over $12,000 in tutition costs.
2. Students know what college work is like.
Transitioning from high school to college can be a difficult experience. Most students begin to live away from home for the first time. The coursework becomes more difficult. Dual enrollment offers a chance for students to see what it is like to complete college-level work before being thrown into it. That allows them to see if going to college is a choice that is right for them.
3. It can look good on a student’s college application.
Not every school offers AP courses. Some students are unable to take AP courses because of their involvement in extracurricular activities, such as sports, Girl Scouts, or Boy Scouts. Dual enrollment allows for the chance to prove to a college admissions board that a student is ready to take on challenging work and take a personal initiative. At the same time, it may even replace the credits that AP courses might have provided.
4. They are sometimes available online.
If online dual enrollment options are available, then students can save a lot of time. There is no longer a need to drive between school campuses to complete schoolwork or attend classes. They can log into their online course at their high school, receive local assistance if needed, and stay active socially in a way that suits them best.
5. It can help students graduate from college early.
Many students who utilize dual enrollment are able to graduate with their undergraduate degree earlier than anticipated. Some high school students have been known to earn their high school diploma and an associate’s degree in their chosen profession simultaneously because of the number of credits they earned.
6. It is a chance to earn a graduate-level degree quickly.
Some 4-year schools are looking at the idea of starting graduate programs that work with dual enrollment courses. If a high school student graduates with two years of college credits, they could theoretically earn their undergraduate degree by the age of 20. If a graduate program is in place that complements this effort, the student could earn a Master’s degree by the age of 22. That creates the potential of earning a Ph.D. by the age of 26.
Additional Cons of Dual Enrollment
1. It makes a busy schedule become busier.
Dual enrollment is a time commitment. Some students barely have any time to relax because of their busy schedules already. Adding dual enrollment into the mix could create additional stress. That could cause the student’s grades to begin suffering. At the end of the day, the added work required by a dual enrollment program could be self-defeating and lead students away from a degree instead of toward it.
2. These courses become part of the permanent record.
Dual enrollment courses are actual college-level classes that are being taken. The grades earned in these classes will go onto a student’s permanent record and become part of their transcripts. That means classes should only be taken if a student feels like they will be successful in the coursework that is being offered. Not doing well could actually prevent some students from being accepted into a 4-year program in the future. AP courses, on the other hand, are not transcripted.
3. Not all dual enrollment programs offer the same value.
There are some introductory college courses that are not as difficult as AP courses that may be offered at some high schools. For some students, the value of dual enrollment is less than the value of the AP course. Some colleges have been known to question the value of an introductory college class when local AP courses offered a greater challenge.
4. It changes the learning model for colleges and universities.
Many colleges and universities have their internships structured for the junior year. These may include opportunities to study internationally, co-ops, and vocational internships. The deadline for applying for these opportunities usually occurs in the sophomore year. If a high school student graduates with 2 years of college credits already in place, then they’d arrive at their college or university as a junior already. That means they may not be allowed to take advantage of these opportunities.
5. It may limit athletic eligibility.
Many schools permit athletic eligibility based on simple enrollment, whether it is an undergraduate or graduate program. Some may not. There may be a requirement to be in an undergraduate program. If a student can graduate from that program early, then they would be forced to choose their athletic eligibility or enroll into another undergraduate program that they may not want or need.
These dual enrollment pros and cons indicate that this learning structure can put a student on a fast-track toward vocational success. It is also a process that must be appropriately managed to avoid the potential negatives that are possible. There will always be unknowns that must be figured out, but with dual enrollment, it is possible to get a head start on the journey.