New Playbook on Dual Enrollment Advances Equity


On October 2, 2020, the Community College Research Center (CCRC) and the Aspen Institute released a report outlining key principles and strategies for increasing equity in dual enrollment for high school students. This is going to be a valuable tool for the field of dual enrollment, and it is affirming for the work of Achieving the Dream (ATD), as it recommends principles and strategies that align with the elements of ATD’s Gateway to College model.

During the past two decades, dual enrollment has expanded exponentially, however in most communities, the current implementation of dual enrollment mirrors existing equity gaps in education. The Dual Enrollment Playbook lays out five principles to help colleges and their school district partners ensure that opportunities for high school students to take college courses achieve the intended objective of increasing postsecondary access and momentum for students of color, first-generation college students, and low-income students.

Five principles

  1. Set a shared vision and goals that prioritize equity
  2. Expand equitable access to dual enrollment
  3. Connect students to advising and supports that ensure equitable outcomes
  4. Provide high-quality instruction that builds students’ competence and confidence
  5. Organize teams and develop relationships to maximize potential

The five principles illustrated in the playbook are based on research conducted at nine dual enrollment programs across the country that are closing equity gaps for Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Pacific Islander students—populations that are typically underrepresented in dual enrollment programs.  Six of the nine colleges profiled are active in  the national Achieving the Dream Network. The principles are clear, supported by well-defined strategies, and they match ATD’s values around K-12/college partnerships. The examples in the report are concrete illustrations of effective strategies for delivering dual enrollment with equity.

In addition to documenting equitable principles for dual enrollment, the playbook also affirms the work of Gateway to College, ATD’s network of college-based dual enrollment programs across the country that serve previously out-of-school and off-track high school students. For 20 years, Gateway to College programs have been enrolling high school students who were unsuccessful in traditional high school or who had dropped out and providing them access to college courses as well as personalized coaching to ensure their success. In many cases, Gateway programs have been swimming upstream to create access for students who don’t meet the traditional eligibility requirements (Gateway students enter with high school GPAs below 2.0 and are behind their cohort in credit attainment). Therefore, it is encouraging for CCRC and Aspen to publish a playbook on how these equity principles can (and should) be applied broadly to dual enrollment programing in order to close postsecondary equity gaps.

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, the U.S.  will have an opportunity to take a fresh look at the transition from K-12 to postsecondary education. ATD was already launching new approaches to helping colleges strengthen their K-12 pipeline and ease that transition for underrepresented students. As ATD extends the lessons from the Gateway to College network to a wider portfolio of dual enrollment programs and K-12 partnerships, we will keep the Dual Enrollment Playbook close to our desk and we recommend that you do the same.

Learn more about ATD’s Gateway to College programs.

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