Students aren't the only beneficiaries of dual credit education

Photo by Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

There’s great news for Texas high school students and anyone advancing the state’s higher education plan, 60X30TX. Two studies released in late July confirm what Texas community colleges, universities, and independent school districts (ISDs) across our great state have known for years: Dual credit education works well for students.

Dual credit allows high school students to enroll in college courses. Students simultaneously receive college credit and high school credit. Simply said, these are college courses for which a school district opts to assign high school credit. In Texas, dual credit education is offered through agreements between a college and a school district. All 50 public community college districts and more than 93 percent of public high schools participate in dual credit education. In the fall of 2017, more than 151,000 students, or approximately 10 percent of all public high school students, enrolled in dual credit. An estimated 25 percent of all current undergraduate students in Texas have earned dual credits. Inarguably, dual credit education will play a critical role in the state’s efforts to achieve the goals of the 60x30TX higher education plan.

Studies confirm the positive gains made by students who have access to college credit in high school. Data reveal that students’ exposure to even one dual credit course improves student outcomes in college. These gains aren’t difficult to find, especially if you look closely at the outcomes data or hear the stories from students who have personally experienced dual credit.

A study authored by Dr. David R. Troutman, associate vice chancellor for Institutional Research and Decision Support in the Office of Strategic Initiatives at the University of Texas System, affirms dual credit education’s positive outcomes. Dual Credit and Success in College asserts, “Compared to students who are not credit-bearing at the time of the college admission process, dual credit students: are more likely to be retained and to graduate from a UT System institution; have higher 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year GPAs; and have fewer semester credit hours at the time of graduation.”

The benefits of dual credit education for students are clear. What’s also clear: Dual credit courses are rigorous. The American Institutes for Research (AIR) released a draft report, Dual-Credit Education Programs in Texas: Phase II, which compared dual credit courses and traditional college courses. The AIR study analyzed course syllabi, instructional materials assigned to students, and graded student work, and found no discernable difference in the content covered between dual credit courses and traditional college courses. The UT System study shows that students at the university perform well in subsequent level courses, an arguably effective measure of the quality and rigor of preceding courses.

As we enter the new school year and prepare for the regular session of the 86th Legislature, let’s put to rest any inaccurate and ill-perceived notions about whether dual credit programs work. They do! To believe in dual credit is to believe in the potential of all Texans.

Let’s work together with education and state leaders and the Texas Legislature to find the right blend of state policy and institutional practice needed to nurture a new generation of dual credit education that benefits students and advances the 60X30TX plan.

Disclosure: The University of Texas System, Odessa College and the Texas Association of Community Colleges have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Dr. Greg Williams

President, Odessa College

Jacob Fraire

President/CEO, Texas Association of Community Colleges