- A large majority of public high schools in the U.S. — 82% in a 2014 study — offer dual enrollment programs, showing the trend is gaining popularity, thanks to their success in boosting college graduation rates and affordability.
- A recent analysis by the Education Commission of the States, however, found that "with the possible exception of Massachusetts," minority students are underrepresented in these programs across the country, and affluent students are over-represented in many places.
- ECS identified 13 model characteristics for successful programs, which included not transferring the cost of enrollment to families, as even a promise of later reimbursement might bar some students from participation; eliminating bureaucratic eligibility and enrollment practices; and providing counseling and a constant flow of information throughout the enrollment process.
Dual enrollment is emerging as one answer to the college affordability crisis, and states which fully fund such programs are seeing the greatest participation and success. However, just as is the case with AP and other advanced course enrollment, students of color tend to be underrepresented. This trend can be traced to any number of factors, including the reliance on certain standardized tests as the sole determinant of placement, but also systemic factors such as a lack of courses offered at schools with high concentrations of minority students, and a lack of communication about students' options.
As with financial aid and other programs designed to help low-income students, a lack of communication between schools and families can leave the intended beneficiaries out in the cold. It is often not enough to make the programs available to all students; for many low-income and first-generation students, parents lack the intrinsic knowledge of how to navigate these systems, while more affluent students reap the rewards, perpetuating the same cycles of inequality that persist throughout the educational complex.