Data Sources

Jobs for the Future’s comprehensive 50-state scan analyzes active legislative and regulatory policies that guide states’ overall approach to dual enrollment education. The scan examines all policies in each state related to dual enrollment programming, as well as legislative changes to policy between 2008 and 2011.

Existing state-level dual enrollment policies were identified primarily through information provided by state education agencies or other public agencies responsible for aspects of dual enrollment. JFF also consulted state-level annual reports, the websites of state education agencies, and other online resources.

Not all states make information related to dual enrollment readily available to the general public. Some states have no specific state-level policies for dual enrollment; others provide the public with very little information regarding dual enrollment options. Where necessary, JFF researchers used data from third-party entities (e.g., nonprofits; district, county, or regional offices of education) and program- or school-based sources.

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JFF's investigation began with a set of research questions reflective of current research and expert thinking in the field on what constitutes comprehensive dual enrollment policy. We set out to understand and report on the following policies:

  • Eligibility and Access: Are states establishing broad multidimensional eligibility guidelines that allow students to take college-level courses in specific subjects as they prove that they can handle work in those areas?
  • Quality Assurance: Are states providing adequate guidelines to dual enrollment partnerships to ensure that course content, student assessments, and instructor qualifications meet college standards?
  • Academic and Social Supports: To what extent are states setting guidelines for dual enrollment partners to offer comprehensive academic and social supports to ensure that students complete college-level courses?
  • Sustainable Funding and Finance: Are funding mechanisms to support dual enrollment based on the principle of no cost to students and no financial harm to secondary and postsecondary partners?
  • Developing Data Systems: Do most states collect individual student and state-level data to monitor, report on, and set goals for participation in dual enrollment?
  • Systems for Accountability: To what extent are states including metrics for dual enrollment or college credit in their accountability systems?

Based on JFF's initial analysis, we identified six model policy elements that constitute a framework for creating a sound and comprehensive environment in which to implement, sustain, and expand dual enrollment.

The description and analysis of state dual enrollment policies are presented through the lens of these six policy elements. JFF developed a set of criteria for assessing each element and then organized the presentation of each state’s policy set according to these indicators. In many cases, states have put in place some policies in these areas, but those policies are not as comprehensive or coherent as the ones outlined in JFF's model framework.  

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Criteria Used for Assessing Each State Policy Element
Eligibility and Access

Model Policies:  A state's eligibility requirements are determined by the secondary and postsecondary sectors together, and students have multiple ways to demonstrate readiness, including a combination of tests, end-of-course grades, teacher recommendations, and work portfolios.



Sustainable Funding and Finance

Model Policies: A state allows both secondary and postsecondary institutions to be compensated for each student's education in such a way that neither entity is financially harmed for jointly creating dual enrollment partnerships (i.e., high school and college partners receive state per-pupil funding reimbursements or a state appropriation to support the development of dual enrollment programs). Also, state funding is provided so that all students can take college courses free of charge, and funding streams are available to pay the cost of textbooks, professional development, and student transportation.


System for Accountability

Model Policies: Policymaking to govern dual enrollment is defined in regulation or statue, and dual enrollment programs have a state administrative structure with dedicated staff that provide support to coordinate and improve dual enrollment programming. A state also requires postsecondary institutions and state departments to report annually on dual enrollment participation and outcomes.


Academic and Social Supports

Model Policies: A state requires that school districts and institutions of higher education define the program designs for dual enrollment partnerships, and specify and document key roles and responsibilities in a memorandum of understanding or cooperative agreement, including provisions for advising students, assisting with course scheduling, and linking students to support services. Finally, a state provides policy support and financial incentives for programs designed to reengage students with risk factors such as being overage and under-credited or youth who have dropped out of high school altogether.


Data Systems to Monitor Quality and Success

Model Policies: State K-12 and postsecondary data systems can identify dual enrollees and distinguish participants by demographic characteristics, as well as link student records longitudinally between sectors.


Quality Assurance

Model Policies: A state requires that students taking courses in dual enrollment programs receive dual credit so that they earn credits toward high school graduation requirements and on college transcripts. In addition, states require that college courses offered within secondary schools use the same syllabi and exams as comparable courses taught on college campuses, and that postsecondary institutions conferring credit for courses define minimum instructor qualifications and provide professional development for faculty teaching courses for dual credit.


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Limitations of the Methodology

Almost all states have some form of dual enrollment, and student participation is growing nationwide. However, an analysis of dual enrollment policy (also called dual credit, concurrent enrollment, and postsecondary options legislation) is difficult to conduct. Much dual enrollment policy is established locally, and state departments of education may support dual enrollment  efforts that are not captured in law or regulation.

JFF conducted extensive research on dual enrollment policies across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, including policy changes through December 2011. This analysis focused on legislative and regulatory policy. It does not address the degree of implementation at state or local levels.

Strong state policy is necessary but not sufficient to ensuring consistency and quality across a state’s dual enrollment program. A deeper analysis of an individual state’s policies and systems is necessary to assess and understand the full impact of legislative changes on local policies and practices and their impact on student outcomes.

Our purpose in this analysis is to take a first step toward making visible how states deal with dual enrollment in legislation and regulation—and the distance between strong dual enrollment policies and current policies across the nation. The nation and the 50 states are grappling with how to ensure that more young people complete high school ready to succeed in college and career and actually move on to postsecondary learning programs that yield credentials with value in the labor market. As they do that, the role of education strategies that promote such outcomes will become increasingly important, and aligning policy with state and national goals will become critical. This 50-state scan is designed to accelerate and simplify that work.

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