Solutions for College Credit in High School

Dear colleagues,

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to listen in on some focus groups in California and Texas where parents of high school students, HR professionals, and policy experts were asked for their views on our education and workforce system – what’s working, what isn’t, and which approaches are most likely to lead to student success and more equitable outcomes. I look forward to highlighting more of what these participants shared in future newsletters, but two immediate takeaways jumped out that I wanted to share this month:

  1. Parents, workforce leaders, and policy experts all shared the view that more needs to be done to intentionally connect K-12, higher education, and the workforce and establish clear pathways for students to pursue degrees and certificates that align with their interests and career aspirations. In fact, when asked to design their ideal programs for strengthening these cross-system connections, these groups proactively identified many of the key ingredients to high-quality pathways programs, such as tailored advising for students, career-connected learning opportunities, clearly sequenced coursework, among others. Hearing such varied stakeholders all agree on common sense solutions and the necessary student supports was deeply encouraging – especially since partners across the country are already working to expand these approaches and build on successful examples. 
  2. While supportive of the idea of clear education pathways, these groups were curious about how existing programs, such as dual enrollment, could be expanded or made widely available to reach more students. It’s one thing to support efforts to help students save time and money on a path to a degree aligned to an in-demand career field, it’s another to understand how those programs can be funded and sustained in a variety of contexts.

Stepping back, it’s clear to see how these two views fit together. The first speaks to the aspirations many share for students and the belief that all students deserve access to high-quality education that equips them to pursue their dreams. The other is about what it takes to turn that vision into a reality for more students in more communities.

As it relates to dual enrollment, fortunately there are new resources available to help education and workforce leaders think through how to scale dual enrollment in the most equitable and impactful ways possible. A recent paper from the Community College Research Center sheds light on one such essential finding: community colleges can decrease costs by optimizing dual enrollment offerings.

The three key areas for improvement are:

  • Economies of Scale: As the number of students enrolled in dual enrollment increases, the average cost of implementing and providing these programs decreases. This means that as participation increases, the overall cost per student becomes more affordable.
  • Student success: Dual enrollment students have relatively high success rates, so in states that have performance funding and include dual enrollment students in their performance calculations, dual enrollment students bring in extra revenue.
  • Yield surplus: Dual enrollment can motivate more students to attend community college and pursue community college credentials after high school, thus generating revenue for colleges downstream.

While dual enrollment is one way students can get on a pathway to college and career, it’s important to remember that there are various other models available for earning college credit while still in high school such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Early College High Schools (ECHSs), Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECHs), and high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) with articulated credit. These aren’t either/or options. In fact, they can work together to create a robust student experience. Read on for more about these models.

Together, let’s continue to expand these transformative models to serve more students and make education more inclusive and accessible for all students – empowering the next generation of leaders and innovators.

Different Models for Earning College Credit in High School

Alongside dual enrollment, several other models provide students with opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school. In a recent report, five distinct models are explored: ​​​​​

  • ​​Advanced Placement
  • International Baccalaureate 
  • Early College High Schools (ECHSs) 
  • Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECHs)
  • High school career and technical education (CTE) with articulated credit 

Why it matters: Earning college credit in high school saves students time and money and increases the likelihood they will continue their education.  

These models are assessed through the lens of whether or not they are viable solutions for creating large-scale pathways that point toward college degree programs in high-opportunity fields.

Learn More: Which models could be right for you and your community?

Request for Proposals to Expand Pathways in Washington State

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Washington State team is launching a Request for Proposals to join Horizons – a new initiative that will provide focused investments in three regional partnerships ready to expand or scale to help more Washington students transition from K-12 into postsecondary education.   

  • ​​​​​​Three partnerships will be selected through Horizons, with up to $5.4 million in funding available for each partnership over the course of three school years.
  • Local partnerships should prioritize efforts to improve college and career advising programs in their specific regions.   
  • In addition to grant funding, Horizons partnerships will have access to technical assistance to learn more about high-quality advising programs.  
  • They’ll also receive support to build their data capacity so they can access, analyze, and apply data to continue refining and improving programs to meet student needs.

What’s next: RFP submissions are due by September 22 at 5 p.m. PT.
Learn moreHorizons regional grant opportunity

Our focus on increasing postsecondary enrollment and supporting locally led solutions emerged from over 200 conversations with community members in the state. Nearly 90% of high schoolers in Washington state say they want to pursue a postsecondary program after graduation. We’re launching Horizons to act on our promise to our community and students.

Our goal: to identify approaches that can be scaled across the state and country, so that all students benefit.

Explore moreThree reasons we’re launching Horizons in Washington state

What we’re reading

 From pipelines to pathways: Researchers call for a new approach to studying academic progress
 4 ways schools are approaching nontraditional postsecondary pathways
 A VISION to Transform State Data Systems to Inform People’s Pathways through Education and the Workforce
 As demand for skilled workers rises in Texas, work-based educational programs see a resurgence
 The college-going gap between Black and white Americans was always bad. It’s getting worse.
 NCAN State Policy Lever: Use State-Level NSC Contracts to Share Postsecondary Outcomes Data