Dual enrollment to-do: Start collecting data

By: | Issue: October, 2017
September 20, 2017

A failure to gather data—not rigor or readiness—may be the biggest issue facing early college programs, believes Jason Taylor, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Utah who has devoted his career to studying dual enrollment.

“There is not a lot of empirical evidence on whether the benefits outweigh the costs,” he says.

Tracking data on student success and degree completion is imperative as institutions expand dual enrollment programs (once limited to high-achieving students) to middle-achieving and low-income students, Taylor says.

Link to main story: Is early college working?

Proposed changes in federal funding aims to allow students to take out loans to participate. But he acknowledges the challenges in tracking data.

“High schools and colleges are separate organizations that have different data collection mechanisms, different administrative record systems, and different reporting requirements and structures. This makes collecting data and conducting research on dual enrollment more difficult.”

Moreover, states lack regulatory mechanisms to ensure quality, leaving decisions about program design and instruction up to colleges and universities, which means quality can vary widely between programs.

“We’ve seen access [to dual enrollment] expand without any accountability mechanisms in place and very little good research,” he says. “We need to be doing a much better job of tracking outcomes.”

Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based writer who frequently contributes to UB.