Dual enrollment programs provide access to college-level courses to high school students prior to graduation, often helping students become more successful in high school and easing their path to college. Between 2008 and 2017, University of Alaska (UA) dual enrollment programs experienced an 85% increase in student enrollment and, among those who graduated from high school, 41% went on to attend a UA institution within a year. Though UA dual enrollment programs have grown more representative, a persistent participation and performance gap exists for rural and Alaska Native students.

line graph showing unduplicated headcount by year across demographic groupsThe new report, Dual Enrollment in Alaska: A 10-year retrospective and outcome analysis, by Dayna DeFeo, director of ISER’s Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, and Trang Tran, ISER Research Professional, looks at 10 years of UA enrollment records for dual enrollment (DE) offerings and includes 15,473 students who attended Alaska public neighborhood schools. The study provides an overview of dual enrollment – including types of programs, participation, and performance – and highlights opportunities to build on the current successes.

“Alaska is one of only three states without a dual enrollment policy,” according to co-author DeFeo. “This report shows that local efforts and partnerships between UA and school districts are already taking us in the right direction.”

Urban, rural hub, and remote rural communities have all grown their dual enrollment programs. Types of classes vary by community with rural communities maintaining a strong Career and Technical Education (CTE) emphasis while urban areas have reduced their Career and Technical Education (CTE) offerings over the last 10 years in favor of increasing baccalaureate courses.

In addition to growing programs, dual enrollment participation is increasing among different demographic groups. While the majority of DE participants in 2017 were White (41%) and urban (70%), minority and rural student enrollment has more than doubled since 2008. The increase in participation is most dramatic for rural hub students, which is up 260%.

Even with growing participation among Alaska Native and rural students, the analysis finds inequities in the number of credits earned, course completion rates, and GPA at the time of high school graduation, between White students and Alaska Native students. Still, among broad high school graduating classes, those who’ve participated in dual enrollment are slightly over-represented among White, Alaska Native, and rural hub students.

While Alaska is moving toward equity in its dual enrollment offerings, participation, and outcomes, the state still has a marked performance gap, especially when students matriculate into the UA system as college students. Many states with dual enrollment policies use incentives and resources to promote DE access and address equity issues.

The authors of “Dual Enrollment in Alaska” acknowledge that this descriptive analysis is not comprehensive, but a preliminary document to provide support to policymakers, practitioners, and researchers working to build on existing positive trends.

UA President’s Strategic Initiative Fund and funds from the UAA Chancellor supported this research and final report.