How Can Community Colleges Afford to Offer Dual Enrollment College Courses to High School Students at a Discount?
Dual enrollment—in which students take college credit-bearing courses when still in high school—is becoming increasingly popular. Community college programs account for about 70% of the dual enrollment that more than one million high school students participate in each year nationwide. Yet dual enrollment can be a big financial burden for community colleges. In most parts of the country, community colleges receive less funding per dual enrollment student than they receive for their regular, non-dual-enrollment students. If community colleges are to continue to provide broad access to high-quality programs, they need to be able to sustain these programs. In this paper, the authors consider the economics of dual enrollment from the perspective of the community college. They illustrate how dual enrollment may not be financially sustainable in colleges and states where it is offered at a discount, but they also show how community colleges can structure their programs to be more efficient. To support the analysis, the authors describe three case studies to show the conditions under which dual enrollment is affordable and efficient.
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