In Texas, the next generation is preparing for college in new ways. High school juniors and seniors are taking college coursework—known as dual credit courses—in increasing numbers.
Dual credit programs allow high school students to take classes that count towards their diploma and earn college credit simultaneously. In the 2009-2010 school year, approximately 70% of all dual credit classes were in core subject areas such as English, math, history, and science, while the rest of the classes were elective or vocational. Students may choose to take just a few classes, or when available, they may complete up to 60 hours of college level credit and earn an Associates Degree along with their High School Diploma. The availability of dual credit classes varies between campuses, but statewide enrollment has increased steadily over the last few years, meaning more high school students are graduating with college credits.
Dual credit courses save students significant time and money. While not all dual credit courses are tuition-free, more than half of all dual credit classes statewide are paid for by the local school district, a higher education partner, or a third party. For a student who earns 16 hours of dual credit courses, the savings is approximately $4,000 in tuition and fees along with a full semester of coursework. Even if students are required to pay dual credit course tuition, they still save money as the cost per credit hour is significantly lower than tuition for a traditionally enrolled college student.
Not only do dual credit courses reduce financial barriers to college, they also reduce academic barriers by introducing students to college-level course work in high school, while they still have access to supportive teachers and counselors. According to a study by the Texas Education Agency, the completion rate of students in dual credit classes is above 94%. These students gain valuable experience with the academic rigor necessary to succeed in college as well as a better understanding of the pathway to college.
Early College High Schools (ECHS) in Texas rely on dual credit courses to make higher education more accessible to traditionally under-served students. These high schools, many part of an initiative by the Texas High School Project, provide dual credit classes at no cost to students along with a variety of other campus-wide initiatives designed to foster a college-going culture. With 44 ECHS campuses throughout the state, this program reaches more than 10,000 students. To read more about the impact of dual credit courses at Early College High Schools, see Making the Grade: Texas Early College High Schools Prepare Students for College.
While dual credit programs show promise, not all Texas high school students have access to these programs. Hispanic students, black students, and low-income students are underrepresented among those enrolled in dual credit courses. This disparity is due in part to the varying availability of dual credit statewide. In addition, some students encounter trouble transferring dual credit hours to select colleges and universities. With the significant advantages students gain from dual credit, it is important to ensure equal access and predictable benefits.
OpportunityTexas applauds the emergence of dual credit and the potential for increasing educational attainment for all Texans.