Exploring the Growth of Dual Credit Education in Texas
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Purpose In Texas, dual credit enrollment has steadily increased since the Legislature first approved it in 1995. Dual credit first began as an effort to provide high school students the opportunity to sample college-level coursework but quickly became a statewide strategy for achieving higher education completion goals. In the early 2000’s, Texas policymakers decided to deregulate college tuition and decrease state funding, which has made the cost of attending college increasingly difficult for students and parents. In addition, those who can afford college are not graduating at high enough rates to fulfill the state’s projected workforce needs. Increased cost and lagging graduation rates created the environment for dual credit expansion in Texas. The purpose of this applied research project is to explore how university personnel perceives the impact of dual credit students on advising, teaching, and administrative systems. Methodology: The most commonly stated goals of dual credit are for high school students to take lower-level university classes in order to complete postsecondary degrees at faster rates and with lower costs. Many reviews of dual credit have examined programs from the students’ perspective. This applied research project takes a different approach by utilizing expert interviews to explore how university personnel perceives the impact of dual credit students on advising, teaching, and administrative systems. Universities, who are advising and educating this new type of student, can offer valuable insight into whether or not dual credit is achieving its intended purposes. For dual credit to be successful, it needs to be working for everyone involved in the educational pipeline. Findings: Based on the interviews this project concluded that while university personnel understands the appeal of dual credit, they also believe dual credit students present challenges to the university systems. The advising staff finds it difficult to determine if dual credit students have mastered the curriculum well enough to enroll them in the next course. The faculty believes that many dual credit students are not adequately prepared to transition seamlessly into upper-division coursework. Several professors cited a lack of maturity and weak writing skills of particular concern. The administration reports that it is taking dual credit students longer to graduate than they think, due to differing degree requirements and sequential coursework. And finally, one administrator warns that first generation dual credit students may persist and complete college at lower rates than traditional dual credit students. This project reveals diverse, expert opinion on how dual credit students are faring at Texas universities and can be used to form preliminary policy recommendations and the basis for future research.