Dual enrollment programs—partnerships between secondary schools and institutions of higher education—provide students an opportunity to pursue appropriate and transferable college courses, including those with a career and technical education (CTE) focus, during high school. These programs are an important way to expose students to and promote career pathways as well as college enrollment and persistence. However, due to limited data access and availability, students, families, and policymakers don’t have enough information about the quality of these programs to understand the value of enrolling in them or determine if they are an appropriate next step. A recent DQC survey confirmed this knowledge gap: Students shared their desire to know more about their possible pathways during and after high school, agreeing that increased access to information and data would help them make decisions about their journeys. Access to this information could not only smooth transitions from high school to what comes next, but also promote equitable opportunities across student groups.
Dual enrollment programs can have beneficial impacts on academic success and college enrollment. For example, students in North Carolina’s Career and College Promise, a dual enrollment program that provides college transfer and CTE pathway opportunities, were more likely to attend class, graduate high school, and obtain postsecondary credentials. Similarly, students enrolled in New York’s P-TECH program, which offers dual enrollment opportunities to students interested in technology, manufacturing, healthcare, and finance jobs, had higher success rates on entrance exams for City University of New York (CUNY) schools.
For students, increased data access can help them understand whether a particular dual enrollment program aligns with their career goals by using metrics like program quality, credential requirements, college success, and average earnings, among others. For example, in Hawaii, the Data eXchange Partnership provides dual enrollment data access for students, allowing them to see and use program demographics and impact data that is similar to the data that schools use to assess the quality of dual enrollment programs.
Expanded data access can also enable school leaders, state and local education agencies, and policymakers to better understand and address equity gaps in dual enrollment programs. Research shows these programs promote college persistence, especially for historically underserved students. Providing policymakers access to disaggregated enrollment, completion, and achievement data for dual enrollment programs can help them understand who is (and isn’t) accessing dual enrollment programs and take action to better target outreach and support to underserved groups of students. Further, with access to data on college enrollment, persistence, and completion and post-graduation earnings for dual enrollment participants, local and state leaders can determine which dual enrollment programs are meeting both the needs of students and the local labor market and allocate resources accordingly.
Providing students, their families, and policymakers with access to better data on dual enrollment programs requires bringing together data from K–12, postsecondary, and workforce data systems. To accomplish this, states must reorient their existing statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDSs) to ensure that they link data from early childhood, K–12, postsecondary, and workforce data systems. By providing secure, role-based access to linked data over time, SLDSs can enable students and decisionmakers to better understand access to and outcomes for the dual enrollment programs within their state. Linked data would enable people to answer their most pressing questions, such as:
- What are the student outcomes of a particular dual enrollment program?
- Who are the students enrolled in a dual enrollment program, including demographics on gender, race, disability, and socioeconomic status, among others?
- Are the students taking advantage of dual enrollment programs the ones who would most benefit from them?
Across the country, dual enrollment programs are a popular way to prepare students for postsecondary education options aligned to their career goals. However, students, their families, and local and state leaders need better data to fully understand the value of these programs and potential gaps in the types of students who are accessing them. State data systems oriented toward access for both individuals and policymakers are necessary for ensuring that people have the data they need to understand quality dual enrollment programs and how these programs contribute to equitable access to education and workforce pathways for all.