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Not All Texas Students Reap The Same Benefits Of Taking Dual-Credit Courses, Study Says

Lara Solt for KERA News
High school students take a quiz during a history class at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, in May 2016.

Dual-credit courses are more popular than ever in Texas. High school students are taking college-level classes and getting both high school and college credit. But a new study finds that not all Texas students benefit equally from these classes.

Dual-credit courses have been promoted as a way to help more students of color get into college and graduate. But the report, prepared for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, found that white students and those with higher scores on standardized tests benefited the most.

Trey Miller, who's with the American Institutes for Research and one of the report’s authors, spoke to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

“The black dual credit participation rate was 10.6 percent while a lot of white students was 24.7 percent,” Miller said. “Our analysis indicated that if blacks had the same income and level of academic preparation and attended the same high schools as a typical white student, then their participation rate would have been 22.7 percent.”

The study also found that student outcomes were more positive for white and higher income students who took dual-credit courses than minority or low-income students.

“For black and Hispanic students, dual-credit participation increased enrollment at two-year colleges but did not meaningfully influence college completion rates,” the report said. “Of particular concern, we found that, on average, the impact of dual-credit participation for students who were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was negative for most outcomes.”

Miller said those negative outcomes were likely because students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals were more likely to have lower standardized test scores.

Raymund Paredes, the state commissioner of higher education, says he’s concerned about some of the racial disparities found in the report.

He’s also concerned about the report’s general finding: that regardless of a student’s background, dual-credit courses only have a modest impact on college enrollment and graduation rates.

Paredes is worried whether high school students are getting the right advice about which dual-credit courses to take.

“Dual credit significantly complicates the transfer issue because these kids are getting college credits while still in high school," he said. "They’re relying very heavily on their high school counselors to give them information about transfer issues and often times they don’t know.”

The study says it’s challenging for high school counselors to advise students, in part because they may not be academically or emotionally ready for the rigors of college-level work.

A final report will be submitted to the higher ed coordinating board in October. You can read the report and see the timeline for the study and public comment here

Dual-Credit Education Programs in Texas by KERANews on Scribd:

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.