A primer on the dual credit options for students | WTCS Skip to content

A primer on the dual credit options for students

As advisors to elementary and secondary students, school counselors have many opportunities to help students find inspiring ways to stay engaged and challenged in their studies, often without the student realizing that was the intent. Granted, not every student will qualify to enroll in dual credit opportunities; they must meet certain qualifications and be at least 16 years old. But dual credit is one of the most promising college and K-12 partnerships. 

Students potentially gain the following:

  • Valuable college credits up for grabs
  • Expanding mindset from present-day high school concerns to college and careers
  • Seeing themselves as a college student
  • Exposure to content not available otherwise in high school
  • Envisioning and realizing the potential for success and confidence in college
  • Earning college credits and perhaps even a college diploma in high school, saving the student a lot of money

Today’s savvy students demonstrate how much is possible with the right guidance and engagement. This is realized in the increasing number of students enrolling in dual credit options between the 2015-16 and the 2019-20 Academic year (up 62% to over 52,500 students).

Considering the total number of credits earned among all 52,000+ dual credit participants is almost 229,000, the staggering benefit of which is over $31 million in college credit (and time) saved, which breaks down to about $602 in savings per student.

Just as COVID-19 exposed some inequities among students’ resulting ability to succeed under very tough conditions, so too can we expect COVID to impact students’ ability to participate in dual credit opportunities. We track statistics by male/female participation in dual credit and consider race/ethnicity as well. Since the latest published statistics are from the 2019-20 school year, we have yet to see how this trend will bear out under the COVID-19 influence. As with education in general, COVID-19 is likely creating more division among students based on socioeconomics and other factors.

Most of the dual credit options and outcomes are largely similar, offering significant challenges and rewards. One of the main differences in the way dual credit options are administered includes who the instructor is. The classes may be taught by a high school instructor with guidance from a technical college instructor, as in Transcripted Credit (79% of dual credit courses are administered this way) or they may be taught by a technical college instructor. Another difference is where the instruction occurs. Unless it’s online, it could be taught within the high school walls or on a technical college campus. The more immersive dual credit option, “Start College Now,” is also the second most administered option at 11%. The course is taught at a technical college and therefore may introduce unique challenges like transportation to and from campus, scheduling, etc. but realistically introduces the student to college. The other differences include how and when the credits appear on the transcript. In all cases, however, the high school pays the cost, and the college provides the transcript upon the student’s successful completion.

The third most administered option available to students is called a 38.14 Contract, because it engages both the high school and the technical college in a contract to provide the service to the student. In this case, a college employee instructs the students on high school grounds, at the high school’s expense. This scenario provides both high school and college-level credits.

The final two types of dual credit opportunities are responsible for about 1% of all dual credit offerings. One is Advanced Standing, sometimes called “Credit in Escrow” because credits are activated once the student begins a college program. An articulation agreement states that one or more high school course(s) align to the first program course at the college level. Neither the student nor the high school bears a financial obligation for the credits.

Finally, a different take on earning college credit comes through a student engaging in a combined learning and work arrangement through a Youth Apprenticeship. In this case, a high school might contract with a technical college and instructor to teach a college-level course where there is also a related work component through a local employer. The high school pays for the instruction by a college instructor.

All options could be valuable for students, enabling a head start toward furthering their education, ultimately finding a promising career. Connect with your local technical college to learn more.