If these students pass their college classes, they receive credit that may be applied toward their high school diploma or toward a college degree or certificate. Many state governments within the United States have recognized the benefit of dual enrollment and have consequently instructed their public universities to begin collaborating with local schools. Some private universities also participate.
Dual enrollment is advantageous to students because it allows them to get a head start on their college careers. In some cases, the student may even be able to attain an Associate of Arts or equivalent degree shortly before or after their high school graduation. Furthermore, participation in dual enrollment may ease the transition from high school to college by giving students a sense of what college academics are like. In addition, dual enrollment may be a cost-efficient way for students to accumulate college credits because courses are often paid for and taken through the local high school.
A number of different models for dual enrollment programs exist, one of which is concurrent enrollment. Concurrent enrollment is defined as credit hours earned when a high school student is taking a college course for both high school and college credit, during the high school day, on the high school campus, taught by a qualified high school instructor. One of the first concurrent enrollment programs was Syracuse University Project Advance.
Critics of dual enrollment have expressed concern that high school students who are inadequately prepared for college-level courses may be deterred from pursuing a postsecondary education as a result of their participation in dual enrollment. In addition, high schools may find it difficult to ensure that their teachers are adequately qualified to teach college courses. Debate continues, as educational policy experts watch how DE cohorts perform after high school graduation in terms of degree completion and persistence rates, especially minority students.