Report: Racial Equity Gaps in Dual Enrollment at CA Community Colleges

Dr Christopher Nellum, Executive Director of The Education Trust-WestA new report of The Education Trust-West, an advocacy organization focused on equity in education in California, found that dual enrollment programs at California community colleges often did not serve black, Latino students equitably and Native Americans.

Dual enrollment allows high school students to take credit university courses, potentially improving access to university. These courses may be offered at high schools, college campuses, or online, depending on the program.

“There has been a lot of attention, probably rightly so, on dual registration,” said Dr Christopher Nellum, executive director of The Education Trust-West. “Evidence suggests that early exposure to college courses may be good for all college students, especially students of color who are black, Latino, or Native American.”

The report, titled “Jumpstart: Setting Goals to Drive Equitable Dual Enrollment Participation in California’s Community Colleges,” analyzed data from community colleges in the state. Research has shown that dual enrollment can improve high school completion rates, make it easier for students to transition to college, and help students save money once they’re in college. Indeed, the credits obtained through dual enrollment may allow some students to graduate from university more quickly, thus reducing the cost of their degree.

“Dual enrollment is seen as a lever to improve rates such as attendance and persistence in college,” said Dr. Sherrie Reed, executive director of the California Education Lab at the University of California at Davis, who has also studied the double registration. “We have learned from a lot of research that students who have some academic experience are not only better prepared academically, but also see themselves as more capable of handling academic materials. “

Reed added that this early exposure to college courses can help students develop a sense of belonging in higher education. Part of this phenomenon is that students learn earlier to navigate college bureaucracies, such as signing up for classes. These advantages can translate into a significant positive impact.

“So every time we see something that people think is the next big silver bullet in education, we get very interested,” Nellum said of why the Education Trust-West decided to analyze the racial equity in dual registration. “?

The report ranked community college districts based on their representation of Latin American, Black, and Native American students in dual enrollment courses relative to the number of high school students in those groups within each of the districts. These categories have been divided into three levels: high representation, moderate representation and low representation.

Still, the report found that more than three in four of California’s 72 community college districts had at least a low representation rating. To address such gaps, the report recommended that K-12 and higher education leaders work together to set dual enrollment goals as well as engage in the collection and assessment of data.

“We want them to get data, review it and constantly think about who is taking advantage of these free college courses and how we can do better,” Nellum said. “And we want to be sure that the data is accessible to the public. “

Additionally, the report suggests that colleges and school districts strengthen their partnerships while devoting more resources to equitable program expansion. Nellum said strengthening recruitment strategies focused on reaching under-represented groups could also help.

“We are all looking for strategies to improve educational opportunities for students from low-income backgrounds,” Reed said of the report’s recruitment recommendation. “We haven’t looked at specific recruitment strategies, but when we put more intentional effort into programs like dual registration, it can help reach more marginalized youth. “

The report also found that some community college districts need only make small changes to serve more Black, Latin and Native American students. Targeted recruitment strategies could be part of this change.

“While I think overall districts can do a better job of making dual enrollment available, especially for students of color, we learned that a small number of districts would not have to do this. much more to achieve meaningful results, ”says Nellum.

He added that the Education Trust-West next wanted to look at community college districts that had a high representation of Black, Latin and Indigenous students participating in dual enrollment. The researchers want to find out what these districts are doing well and what other districts can learn from them to do better.

With the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, Nellum stressed that today is an even more vital time for community colleges to see dual enrollment programs not just as an enrollment strategy but as a strategy. racial equity.

“Dual enrollment can be a powerful lever in addressing some of the issues we’ve seen during the pandemic with declining community college enrollment,” Nellum said. “And we know young people are looking for ways to get involved, so dual registration can help. But access must be a priority, especially for black, Latin and indigenous students. Because it is the communities that continue to be the hardest hit by this pandemic. “

Rebecca Kelliher can be reached at [email protected]

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