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The Psychology of Dual Enrollment: The K14 Model

Concurrent Enrollment: Motivational Pathway to Student Success

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Source: Public Domain

Luskin's Learning Psychology Series, No. 20

Dual Enrollment is growing. Dual enrollment has been growing nationally and in California. We have launched pilot programs in the Ventura County Community College District where I serve as Chancellor for our three colleges. They are Ventura College, Oxnard College and Moorpark College. Approximately twenty five Ventura County school districts graduate seniors who enter the collegs among the more than 35,000 students who attend the Ventura County Community Colleges.

The K-14 Structure. Dual enrollment offers a pathway that allows high school students to concurrently enroll in college courses and earn credits toward a high school diploma and college degree. Dual enrollment is now a hot topic with legislators and educators across the country. It supports the No Child Left Behind Program goal of encouraging greater academic challenges during high school, adds the psychology of a motivational continuum and boosts college success rates as well as high school graduation rates. (US Department of Education)

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Source: Public Domain

In California, about which I know the most, increasing numbers of students are participating in programs where students earn college credits while in high school. California recently passed Assembly Bill 288 with the goal of creating a pathway from high school to community college with the objective of helping high school students be better prepared and more motivated toward college and career readiness. At the moment, 50% of all students enrolled in American higher education are in community colleges. Therefore, community colleges are the major foundational force in transfer and career technical education on the United States.

Examining research. Because of this growth and the implications of dual enrollment for community colleges, I decided to examine the research. One question is the benefit to students and the effect on college success and completion. (Taylor, 2015) Lawmakers believe so and according to extensive research students are reaping the rewards.

A study conducted by ACT research, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building education and workplace success, tracked all new college students between 2005-2006 at four Texas universities (University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M at College Station, Texas A&M and Commerce, and University of Texas – Pan American), 42% of those students entered with dual enrollment courses completed. The study found that 30% of students were more likely to complete their Bachelor’s degree in six years and 42% were more likely to complete their degree on time – in four years. The study also found dual enrollment courses were as effective as traditional courses in preparing students for subsequent coursework for 19 of 21 course pairs across a wide range of disciplines, based on those who earned a B or higher. (Justine Radunzel, October 2014)

In the University of Iowa, College of Education, Dr. Joni Swanson prepared a report comparing the transcripts on more than 400 high school students that participated in dual enrollment (not advanced placement) and the students who had similar GPA’s but did not participate in dual enrollment. The study concludes:

“Dual enrollment students were 11% more likely to persist through the second year of college than non-participating students.”
“Dual enrollment students were 12% more likely to enter college within seven months of high school graduation than non-participating students.”
“Dual enrollment students who completed 20 or more credits in the first year of college were 28% more likely to persist through the second year in college than were students who did not complete dual enrollment courses.”[1]

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Source: Public Domain

The psychology. The data also shows that dual enrollment “fosters more positive attitudes toward earning post-secondary degrees in students who did not previously hold these attitudes.” (Swanson, 2008)

Results are promising. The California Community College League, the State Board for Community Colleges and the legislature are supportive of dual and concurrent enrollment. This year at least three proposed bills would alter the state’s dual enrollment policies in a positive way. Three proposed bills that deal with dual enrollment in California in 2015 are:

AB 288 by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, would allow K-12 and community college districts to create partnerships to expand dual enrollment opportunities.
AB 889 by Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, would lift dual enrollment caps for students who wish to enroll in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses.
AB 482 by Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, is a bill relating to dual enrollment in computer science courses. (Maitre, 2015)

The California State Chancellor supports dual enrollment. The California Community College Chancellor’s office is a big supporter of AB 288 and Chancellor Brice Harris has said that he believes that dual enrollment offers early exposure to college and is promising in decreasing the need for remedial work for students entering community college. (Maitre, 2015 also makes this point)

Moving Dual Enrollment forward. Policymakers face a number of challenges as they work out dual enrollment policies. Policy opportunities include: ƒ(1) Setting eligibility standards and structuring programs in ways that enable all students who can benefit from dual enrollment to participate and, (2) Developing financing mechanisms that are equitable for the secondary and postsecondary sectors, as well as students and their parents. (US Department of Education)

The psychology of Dual Enrollment moves students to be motivated beyond K-12 toward a K-14 model. Dual Enrolment is a pathway success strategy and opportunity in education whose time is now.


Dr. Bernard Luskin, LMFT is Chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District in California. Luskin has been CEO of eight colleges and universities, president of divisions of several Fortune 500 companies and is a licensed family therapist and school psychologist. He is President Emeritus of the Society for Media Psychology and Technology of the American Psychological Association. Bernie Luskin received lifetime achievement awards for contributions to education, media and psychology from the UCLA Doctoral Alumni Association, The Commission on the Future of the American Association of Community Colleges, the Irish Government and European Commission. Contact information:

Editorial assistance.

Thanks to Alisa German, MA, Susana Bojorquez, MA, and Toni Luskin, PhD for your assistance in preparing this article.


Justine Radunzel, J. N. (October 2014). Dual-Credit/Dual-Enrollment Coursework and Long-Term College Success in Texas. ACT Research & POlicy.

Maitre, M. (2015, March 31). Lawmakers try and try again to expand dual enrollment. EdSource .


Taylor, J. L. (2015). Accelerating Pathways to College:The (In)Equitable Effects of Comunity College Dual Credit. Sage Journals , p. 1.

US Department of Education. (n.d.). Retrieved August 19, 2015, from