If you are still in high school, there is a way to “get on the fast track” to high school and college graduation and reduce the cost of attending college – while gaining credentials that are respected, mainly because students who have completed this program end up being more motivated than other students. It’s know as “dual enrollment.” With dual enrollment it’s possible to earn college credits while working on a high school diploma, so long as you are still in school.


To qualify to actually take courses on a college campus, you generally you need to be at least a high school junior (have completed sophomore year) with at least a B overall average, and you need to pass the S.A.T. or A.C.T. with a high enough score to qualify for admission to the school you will be getting college credit at (usually a local community college). You may also need the permission of your high school.

Other options for students may include taking Advanced Placement courses in high school, and passing a test at the end of the course, or taking CLEP examinations, but make sure the college you are thinking of attending accepts Advanced Placement or CLEP credit. For more on these options, see: 25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College: #2: Promote Dual Enrollment Programs.

Dual Enrollment Advantages

Dual enrollment used to be called “early admissions” and was open to students who had completed their junior year. Today as noted it’s often available to students who are still juniors (that is have completed their sophomore year in high school). Taking dual enrollment courses is believed to help improve ties between secondary and post-secondary schools, according to Karp, et. al. (2008) who studied opening dual enrollment to more students. As noted above, students who complete dual enrollment courses are widely believed to be more motivated.

Opening Dual Enrollment to More Students


Some states – Florida and New York – have researched opening dual enrollment to still more students, including those with slightly lower high school GPAs (C) and slightly lower admissions test scores. After all these students will have a chance to take the test again senior year after completing more coursework so are probably good candidates for college.

The results of this study look promising: students with lower high school grades and/or from poorer backgrounds who participated in dual enrollment were more likely to complete high school, less likely to need remediation when they entered college, as well as more likely to complete more college than peers of similar backgrounds who did not complete dual enrollment courses, according to the CCRC study. The association between taking dual enrollment courses and secondary graduation increased slightly per course taken up to a maximum of four courses and then tapered off according to the data.

The students with C averages showed a greater jump in college attendance and a greater increase in college GPA associated with dual enrollment than did their dual enrollment peers with B averages. High school graduation rates also improved in association with dual enrollment.


However unlike with B-average dual-enrollment students, taking only one or two dual enrollment courses was associated with little if any increase in high school graduation rates for the C-average students. The increase in high school graduation rates for C-average students was significant however when these students took three-to-four dual enrollment courses, and the correlation between graduation from high school and taking three-to-four courses was stronger for the C-average students than for the B-average students.

More research can verify whether C-average students in dual enrollment programs actually finish college at higher rate than their peers who do not take dual enrollment courses. Dual enrollment at least is associated with better college grades and increased likeliness of remaining in college for up to two years after high school graduation. It also seems likely that high school students who take college coursework in areas of high interest to them will benefit and also contribute to their college classes.

Other Options for Fast Diplomas and Degrees: A Note of Caution

Dual enrollment programs are widely recognized and provide college coursework in an accredited college. Some online schools offer credit for life experiences with accelerated options toward high school or college degrees, but not all such degrees are accredited. It’s best to check out the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s list of accrediting bodies and then make sure the school you are thinking of attending is accredited by one of these. It’s also a good idea to talk to a local university or prospective employer in the field and ask them what they think of the school too.