New Study Provides Insights Into Dual-Credit Programs in Oregon High Schools

March 2017

A new study by Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest offers the first comprehensive look at community college dual-credit and dual-enrollment options in Oregon and the students who participate in them. The REL Northwest study also explores the relationship between students’ participation in dual-credit programs and their education outcomes, including high school graduation, postsecondary enrollment, and postsecondary persistence.

“This study provides evidence from Oregon that aligns with national research regarding the promise of dual-credit courses to improve student outcomes in high school and postsecondary education,” said Ashley Pierson, the study’s lead researcher. “These results also help us understand the scope of community college dual-credit participation in Oregon and where there are equity gaps in access and participation.”

The study defines dual-credit courses as those in which students receive both high school and college credit for college courses taken at their high school. Dual-enrollment courses are those in which students receive both high school and college credit for courses taken at a college or online through a college.

Oregon has invested extensively in programs that seek to increase the number of students—particularly underrepresented students—who earn college credit in high school. Twenty-nine percent of Oregon students who were expected to graduate from high school in 2013 participated in community college dual-credit courses.

Most public colleges in Oregon offer dual-credit programs, but they vary across institutions. The three most popular community college dual-credit subjects from 2005 to 2013 were math, technology, and English, respectively.

From 2005 to 2013, nearly all Oregon high school students attended high schools that offered community college dual credit. Districts with the lowest dual-credit participation were concentrated along the coast, outside of major metropolitan areas in the northwest corner of the state, and in rural regions in Central and Eastern Oregon.

According to the study, Oregon’s community college dual-credit participants are more likely to be white, female, high achieving, and not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Male students of all racial and ethnic groups participate in community college dual-credit programs at lower rates than female students, and in each racial or ethnic group, the gender gap in participation is similar. In addition, gaps in participation among student groups persist even when participation is measured using methods that compare students with similar background and education characteristics.

This study was conducted in partnership with the Oregon Department of Education, Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and the Chief Education Office.

“This study highlighted the need to increase the diversity of students participating in dual credit opportunities across the state,” said Jennell Ives, education specialist at the Oregon Department of Education’s Office of Teaching and Learning. “Since this study was conducted, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission has approved two additional models for earning college credit in high schools. The state has also invested in regional consortia focused on increasing access and participation of historically underrepresented student populations in earning intentional college credits while in high school.”

The study also found dual-credit participants have higher rates of graduating from high school and enrolling and persisting in college than the state average, although it cannot determine whether participation in community college dual-credit programs contributed directly to these outcomes.

A recent What Works Clearinghouse intervention report found dual-enrollment programs have positive effects on high school graduation; academic achievement in high school; and college access, credit accumulation, and graduation.

Download the study from the Institute of Education Sciences website.