8 Ways Dual-Enrollment is Transforming Higher Education

One of the more interesting aspects of working in the higher education space is the amount of change and innovation that has been occurring in recent years. Dual-enrollment programs is one of the more exciting ways that schools are re-thinking how they engage with students.

What is Dual-Enrollment?

Before describing the impact of dual-enrollment, let's first describe what it is (for those who may not be familiar). A dual-enrollment program is curriculum tailored specifically to high school students to take supplemental courses to add rigor to their academic career while still completing their secondary degrees. This allows colleges and universities to engage with students before they narrow down the list of institutions they are considering attending.

1. This year's Community College enrollment turnaround can be credited to Dual-Enrollment programs

On March 29, 2023, the National Student Clearinghouse published its spring 2023 enrollment update. Most notable was the first report of a turn-around in community college enrollment since before the pandemic. This is mostly attributable to a 12.9% increase in dual-enrollment.

2. Dual-Enrollment is replacing Advanced Placement courses for high school students

Secondary school students are finding that dual-enrollment courses are often a better option to add rigor to their curriculum with a much greater track record of having credits and courses successfully transfer to their college of choice. Because of this, dual-enrollment programs have been growing in recent years at a significant rate.

3. The jury is still out as to whether Dual-Enrollment programs will have a significant impact on degree-seeking enrollment

Although dual-enrollment is contributing to community college enrollment numbers, students are generally taking between 1 and 3 courses. This means that although enrollment numbers are turning around, the number of credit hours of instruction has not yet showed the same level of turn-around. This makes it critical for institutions to convert dual-enrolled students to degree seeking students.

4. Dual-enrollment programs are an area of contention between 2 and 4 year institutions

4-year institutions are also investing heavily in dual-enrollment programs to help with enrollment. Because of this competition, there is an increasing amount of contention between both types of institutions at a time when they also need to partner more closely to improve upward transfer rates.

5. Admissions and enrollment processes are undergoing changes to support dual-enrollment programs

Recruiting and admitting dual-enrollment students is a much different process than doing this for degree-seeking students. Students are generally minors, they are taking individual courses, and may need more support. This means that the information needed to be gathered as part of the admissions process, the way that students navigate the process, and way that students enroll in courses must be tailored to this constituent. Finally, many dual-enrollment programs utilize high school instructors on the high school campus to teach dual-enrollment courses -- which means that the courses themselves may be specific to dual-enrollment programs.

6. Institutions are using dual-enrollment programs to reach prospective students earlier in their academic careers

One of the primary reasons for dual-enrollment programs is to establish a relationship with prospective students earlier in their academic careers. Historically, higher education institutions have targeted students in the middle to end of their high school tenures. However, many institutions have expanded these programs to engage students in middle school as well so that those relationships can be established much earlier with prospective degree seeking students.

7. Institutions are innovating to give dual-enrollment students a hybrid college experience

As mentioned in Item 6, many dual-enrollment programs utilize high school instructors and high school facilities to instruct students. One of the challenges with this approach is that these programs have a more tenuous tie between the student and the institution.  In other words, students aren't exposed to the institution's campus or instructors.

Because of this these institutions are looking for other ways to build that relationship with students. This includes onboarding students with the institution's digital footprint (learning management systems, student information system, etc.) as well as performing outreach between admissions, academic advisement, and deans with those same students to build those relationships.

8. Institutions are optimizing their admissions processes to make it easy for dual-enrollment students to become degree-seeking students

Because the primary goal of dual enrollment programs is to ultimately convert dual-enrollment students to degree-seeking students; successful institutions eliminate barriers for students in the admissions and registration process. As part of becoming a dual-enrollment student, those students have already navigated an admissions process. The institution already has significant information about the student including bio/demo, education, as well as relationships with trusted staff at the institution.

Instead of treating an incoming freshman from a dual-enrollment program the same as all other incoming freshmen; these institutions have special marketing, admissions, and enrollment processes optimized for those students. For example, Mutara is working with institutions that pre-populate tailored applications for admissions to eliminate data entry by the applicant. These applications are routed separately from the other applications so that the time from submission to decision can be streamlined and optimized to ensure maximum yield from these students.

How Mutara Helps

Dual-enrollment candidates represent a special population of students that both has a unique identity and also has programs specifically targeted for them as individuals. Our focus on highly tailored inbound engagement solutions for new students means that we help many institutions both increase dual-enrollment student volumes as well as helping institutions more successfully convert dual-enrollment students to degree-seeking ones.

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