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Research Questions

  1. What institutional policies and practices shape how institutions advise dual credit (DC) students, teach DC courses, and determine student eligibility for DC courses?
  2. How have DC participation rates among different student groups and DC course delivery changed over time?
  3. What are the academic outcomes of high school students who took DC courses versus those who did not, prior to House Bill 505 (which went into effect in 2015 and expanded access to DC in a number of ways)?
  4. Did high school students who took DC courses complete college more efficiently than students who never took DC courses?

Dual credit (DC) education programs — delivered through partnerships between high schools and colleges and universities — offer high school students the option to take college-level courses that simultaneously award them college and high school credit. In Texas, policymakers, K–12 and college and university administrators, and the public have sought to better understand the extent to which DC education programs boost higher education access and completion. Specifically, these groups are looking for ways to identify whether reforms are needed to maximize the benefits of DC programs and minimize the concerns around them.

This report shares findings from Phase I of a two-year study that examines DC programs in Texas. It provides an initial perspective on the accessibility, diversity, quality, and efficiency of DC education programs in Texas. It also proposes areas of DC education to investigate in the second phase of the study.

Key Findings

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.

Research Questions for the Second Phase of the Study

  • Are there systematic differences in curricula, course content, assessment methods and standards, and/or teaching approaches in DC and college-credit-only courses?
  • Is there a way to improve DC advising to reduce the number of SCHs a DC student earns toward a college degree?
  • How much did students' previous academic preparation and behavioral dispositions, versus what they learned in their DC courses, contribute to their academic success?
  • What are the financial costs of DC programs to stakeholders, given that Texas allocates funding to both high schools and colleges and universities to deliver DC and that DC students exhibit similar time-to-degree and SCHs-to-degree patterns as college-credit-only students?
  • Why do disparities in DC participation rates across demographic groups exist and persist?
  • Are institutions expanding dual-credit programs in response to House Bill 505 If so, which students are gaining access to dual-credit education, and are they still benefiting?

Recommendation

  • Policymakers should wait for findings from the next phase of the study to make changes to policy surrounding dual credit programs in Texas.

The research described in this report was funded by the College for All Texans Foundation (CFAT) and conducted by RAND Education in collaboration with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and Gibson Consulting.

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