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Access to Dual Enrollment in the United States: Implications for Equity and Stratification

July 2019

Rivera, Kotok, Ashby


Using the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 data set, which is the most recent nationally representative sample of high school students in the U.S., the authors of this article can analyze the distribution of dual enrollment (DE) access throughout the country. The articles provided a history of the policy and a framework of analysis focusing on the “The Three E’s”: Equity, Excellence, and Efficiency. Their study, using logistic regression (based on the data) to estimate the probability of a student enrolling in DE during high school, found that DE participants “tended to differ on demographics such as gender, race, and SES as well as achievement levels. For example, the study found that DE students “were relatively more advantaged.” DE participants also reported having “higher average levels of engagement and social belonging.”

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Policy Implications

Due to the study’s findings in terms of the correlation between SES and participation in DE programs, it is concerning given the equity goals of several DE policies. The authors argue that “DE policies have the potential for school leaders to create a more equitable pathway, but it also creates a pathway for…widening the opportunity gap among students” (23). The authors argue that an overrepresentation of low-income minority students instead of continuing to group and track-based on income and prior achievement could result in racial stratification. They also suggest, based off their findings, that “Rather than subsidizing DE for students with more affluent backgrounds, a more effective use of resources would be geared towards interventions that seek to close the gap at younger ages” such as investing in early childhood programs.

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