Dual-Credit Education Programs in Texas

Dual credit education has become a popular vehicle in Texas and other states to encourage more students to enroll in college and to complete college degrees or credentials. Delivered through partnerships between high schools and postsecondary institutions, dual credit education offers high school students the opportunity to enroll in college-level courses that award them both college and high school credit.

As dual credit programs have evolved and expanded, dual credit stakeholders have focused increased attention on the quality, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of these programs. Specifically, policy makers have expressed an interest in understanding how these programs work and in receiving evidence-based guidance on ways to ensure that dual credit education programs are administered and scaled effectively.

An in-depth, two-part study was designed to explore these questions. The Phase I study results were published in an interim report by the RAND Corporation in August 2017. In Phase II, AIR researchers examined the following areas of inquiry:

  • The direct effect of dual credit education programs in traditional high schools relative to college access and completion;
  • Dual credit advising practices and procedures;
  • Factors that contribute to racial disparities in dual credit participation;
  • The academic rigor of dual credit courses relative to college credit only courses;
  • The costs and benefits of delivering dual credit education; and
  • Changes in patterns of student participation in dual credit education, outcomes for dual credit students, and the delivery of dual credit coursework after the passage of HB 505.

The Evaluation

This study’s overall findings make clear that dual credit education is a worthwhile investment for Texas high school students and the state of Texas. Findings from Phase II also highlight areas in which policies and practices can improve to help ensure that dual credit education benefits all participating students in the future. Specifically, the study found that:

  • The benefits generated by dual credit education greatly exceeded the cost of its delivery;
  • Dual credit education boosts college enrollment and completion, especially in the context of two-year institutions; and
  • Evidence suggests that dual credit courses are equally academically rigorous as college credit only courses.

While this study finds evidence suggesting that dual credit education works to increase college enrollment and completion, it also unearthed three specific areas of dual credit education that merit further attention:

  • Low-income students and students of color did not benefit as much from dual credit education delivered in traditional high school settings when compared with affluent and white students.
  • Evidence suggests that costs may be a barrier to accessing dual credit education.
  • Constraints faced by counselors pose challenges to ensuring that students receive quality advising.