RAND Study: Dual Credit in Texas

A study from the respected RAND corporation examines dual credit statistics in Texas, where overall enrollment in such classes reportedly soared 650 percent between 2000 and 2015.

Unfortunately, 2015 was when the Legislature passed a law removing most statutory restrictions on offering dual credit classes, so the data will not reflect the results of this important change in policy. The researchers say they intend to examine the new data in a subsequent report.

Texas is gaining attention as a major participant in dual credit programs.

Here is a link to the full report from RAND. Key findings on dual credit (DC) in Texas:

Four Main Findings (Based on Data from Before the Implementation of House Bill 505 in 2015)

  • DC students who graduated from high school had better college outcomes — including higher grades in DC courses and their follow-on courses; higher college enrollment, persistence, and completion rates; and lower remediation rates — than high school graduates who did not take DC courses.
  • DC instruction and advising varied across colleges and universities.
  • Disparities in DC participation rates — by race/ethnicity, income, urbanicity (the urban or rural location of the student’s high school), gender, and academic background — exist and change across demographic groups over time. These disparities persist, and the research thus far is unable to pinpoint their specific causes.
  • DC students took about the same number of semester credit hours (SCHs) as their non-DC counterparts, however, they took, on average, half an academic year less to complete a four-year degree.

That third bullet point above is the focus of an article by Catherine Gewertz, in Education Week. She writes, “…over time, minority and low-income students have become less likely to take those classes than their white and more-affluent peers.”

Dual credit classes have been susceptible to criticism of cherry-picking the best students. If you take the top high school students (with interested parents, a very important ingredient) and measure their subsequent success, it’s impressive. But wouldn’t these kids have succeeded anyway?

It’s clear that money is a factor in the growth of dual credit. Financial stakeholders—parents, institutions, and the Legislature—love it. But if the monetary benefit doesn’t penetrate underserved, “at risk” populations needing it the most, we may be kicking a cheaper can down the road.

The 2015 law insured that dual credit in Texas has gone mainstream. The new study from RAND, along with other research, will be more definitive.

The forthcoming TCCTA Conference for Faculty Leaders includes a program on dual credit. Here is the link.