Posted on Monday, October 2, 2017

What You Always Wanted to Know About Dual Enrollment But Were Afraid to Ask


CAPTION: This directional sign shows that high school and college classes can be accomplished at the same time!

More than 40,000 high school students were dual enrolled in Virginia’s Community Colleges during the 2016-17 Academic Year (AY). Dual Enrollment (DE) headcount has increased year after year from 31,100 in AY 2011-2012 to 40,340 in AY 2016-2017. Four out of every five of those students took the college courses at their high schools with most of the courses taught by high school faculty who met specific SACS credential requirements. Obviously, Dual Enrollment is popular. But, what exactly is it? What are the benefits? What are the concerns? And does it really work for our students and our colleges? Let’s take a look…

(NOTE: The final JLARC report made several recommendations regarding Dual Enrollment. Click HERE to learn more about them.)

What is Dual Enrollment (DE)? Available at all 23 VCCS colleges, the DE program allows qualified high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college courses for credit prior to high school graduation. To enroll, students must demonstrate fundamental English and math skills and must meet the same course prerequisites as adult college students.

What are the benefits? According to the Community College Research Center:

  • DE students have a higher likelihood of:
    • Graduating from high school
    • Enrolling in college after high school graduation
    • Pursuing a baccalaureate degree
    • Persisting to completion
  • Students who take dual enrolled courses on the college campus have the highest success outcomes.

How is DE delivered in Virginia?

In the commonwealth, students participate in DE in one of two ways:

High School-Based

  • >90% of DE students take college courses at their high schools.
  • Courses are taught by a college-qualified high school teacher.
  • The student’s high school pays the tuition and fees.
  • The colleges reimburse the high schools to pay for the cost of instruction based on a negotiated cost model:
    • 60% reimbursed for instructional costs, classroom usage, etc.
    • Additional negotiated reimbursements up to 100% maximum for advising, placement testing, purchasing textbooks, and other activities in support of the DE program.


    • All instruction occurs on the college campus (academies, home-school students, individual high school students).
    • Courses are taught by college faculty members.
    • Students/parents pay full tuition and fees.


Over the last few years, the VCCS, Virginia legislators and universities have expressed concerns about the high school-based DE program that include:

  • Reimbursement rates are not uniform across the colleges. The 2015-2016 reimbursement rates ranged from 100% to 60%, with an average system-wide tuition reimbursement rate of 85%.
  • Some school divisions pass the cost on to parents, while others pay from within their budgets.
  • Questions about the quality and rigor of high school-based DE courses.
  • Lack of structured pathways for students.
  • DE courses are not accepted at all universities.

The 2017 General Assembly Appropriation Act instructed the VCCS, the Department of Education, SCHEV, and the Virginia Secretary of Education to study specific components of DE and submit preliminary and final reports. As a result, three Dual Enrollment study groups with representatives from community colleges, universities, SCHEV, and the Department of Education, were established in August 2016.

Preliminary Findings & Recommendations

The workgroups began assessing the issues and submitted an initial report to General Assembly leaders last May. The groups will continue their analysis over the next year, finalize recommendations, and submit their final report to the General Assembly by May 1, 2018. 

The preliminary findings and recommendations focus on three areas of the DE program:

Quality & Rigor 

Finding: Four-year institutions are reluctant to accept DE credits. When credits are accepted, they might not be counted toward students’ degree requirements.     


    • VCCS should adopt and enforce quality standards to ensure that DE courses are college-level courses.
    • Universities should credit dual enrollment courses to the same extent they would be credited if taken on the college campus.
    • DE general education courses should be acceptable toward the satisfaction of lower division general education requirements at four-year institutions.

Next Steps: Consider adoption of national standards for dual enrollment quality.


Finding: The majority of DE students are taking courses but are not program-placed.


    • Create structured pathways that map DE opportunities to career education and transfer programs.
    • Revise General Education Certificate to create more uniformity.
    • Ensure that high school students receive appropriate advising in career planning, program placement, course selection, and transfer requirements.

Next Steps: Establish Career Education Academies leading to degree completion, and redesign General Education Certificate to improve transferability. 

Uniform Cost

Finding: A VCCS Cost of Education model shows that a college needs to retain approximately 30% of tuition to break even on DE costs associated with program administration and oversight; testing, student advising, and career planning; learning resources; registration and transcript services; faculty orientation, engagement, and professional development; student, course, and program assessment and evaluation.


  • Change terminology from “Tuition Reimbursement” to “Dual Enrollment Tuition Rate.”
  • Establish a uniform Tuition Rate for DE delivered at the high school by a qualified high school faculty member.
  • Phase-in the uniform Tuition Rate over a period of three years.
  • Seek financial assistance for students whose families cannot afford to pay.

Next Steps: Continue discussions with school superintendents, presidents and others to determine a DE Tuition Rate recommendation for State Board consideration.

Dr. Sharon Morrissey, vice chancellor for academic services and research, says a lot of work aimed at improving dual enrollment has already been done by a group of dedicated educators from around the state.

“There is much more to be accomplished by the time the final report is due next spring, including possible legislative mandates by the 2018 General Assembly, as well as our work with universities and high schools. Stay tuned for more about this exciting project!”'

Laura Osberger

1 Comment

  1. ?

    Roberto Romello

    Hi, Good caption for the above picture. And, “More than 40,000 high school students were dual enrolled in VCCs…”, great! After reading more about what exactly DE program is, it is really very interesting to hear that how VCCS is bringing additional benefits for the students who scored >90%. Great post and I really enjoyed reading it very much… Thank you!


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