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What is Dual Enrollment?

What is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment is not a universally defined.  I use the term “dual enrollment” or “DE” as a generic catch-all term to mean a college course taken by a student for both college and high school credit. In the case of homeschooling, the parent awards the high school credit while the college awards the college credit. Students enrolled in private schools, public schools, and umbrella schools will not have the same autonomy as a high school family, and should consult their school officials for guidance.

It can be confusing, but different states and different college systems use a variety of terms to mean dual enrollment. Since each system may vary in its exact definition, you’ll want to be careful that you understand the details of any program you’re considering.

Examples of dual enrollment program names:

  • Dual Enrollment
  • Career and College Promise
  • Middle College
  • Early College
  • Postsecondary Enrollment Option (PSEO)
  • Concurrent Enrollment
  • Dual Credit
  • Joint High School
  • Articulated High School

How does Dual Enrollment Work?

The student attends class, online or in person, along with the regular college students. Dual enrollment students complete the same requirements as “regular” college students, including receiving grades and a college transcript.

There are versions of dual enrollment used in public schools where the teacher holds regular class for the high school students for “college credit.” This type of DE is growing in popularity, but generally speaking, those programs aren’t open to homeschooling families. Before you feel upset by this exclusion, you should know that outcome data says that students who take courses directly with the college are more successful than those who take their dual enrollment courses with a high school.

Registration for homeschool students is nearly entirely done directly with the college. Since there are no restrictions placed on where you register, parents can select a college(s) based on their budget, interests, religion, or learning preferences. With nearly 3,800 colleges in the United States, most allowing participation, this opens up a fantastic opportunity for homeschooled teens.

caution:   dual enrollment courses won’t be censored for your teen.  Maturity should always be considered.

As a homeschool family, your teen’s access to dual enrollment is often better than if they were in public school. In many states, the public school’s guidance counselor chooses which students and which courses are offered, and generally, only the top scoring students are eligible. As the homeschool administrator, you can choose whether or not your teen participates, and if they aren’t eligible to participate locally, you can choose to use a different college outside your state. If you want to learn it, it’s out there to learn!

Learn Now Transfer Later

Though this isn’t the case in all 50 states, nearly every state (38) has determined that general education college courses taken for dual enrollment credit at a public college or university are guaranteed to transfer into the other public colleges and universities of that state. 35 states guarantee that the associate degree will transfer perfectly into the state’s public colleges and universities. Not having that guarantee doesn’t mean that it won’t transfer, but having the guarantee is an added peace of mind! Even in these guaranteed transfer states, a private university often marches to their own drum and can reject the transfer of credit with otherwise excellent transferability.

Pro Tip: General Education courses like English, math, science, world languages, or history transfer much better than career and technical or occupational courses like business, information technology, management, health, hospitality, agriculture, or skilled trades.

What’s it Cost?

That depends- a lot. Some of you will live in states with free dual enrollment tuition, others will have access to reduced tuition, and some will pay full price. No matter what YOUR STATE OFFERS, you can always shop around! For instance, there are out of state opportunities as low as $25 per credit, so if your state’s best price for reduced dual enrollment tuition is $100 per credit, you may want to look elsewhere.

Homeschool students are not bound by their state’s offerings, you always have the option to choose any college in any state! Be sure to check my list of the cheapest dual enrollment programs at any given time.

During high school you have unlimited access to reduced or free tuition in any amount, but after high school you will absolutely with certainty pay full price.

The following states offer free dual enrollment options in some amount. Check with other parents in your HS4CC State-based Facebook group for guidance.

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Secular or Religious?

Both! While your state may have limitations for what they pay for you can always choose the better fit for your family and you always have the final say on where your teens take college classes. For parents who want religious dual enrollment courses,  I keep a list of religious colleges with proper accreditation and open to homeschooling students living any state.

What to Watch Out For

The downside to dual enrollment is simple, if your child bombs the class, the grade is on their permanent record (college transcript). Colleges require you to disclose all previously earned credit under penalty, so that “D” may count against future college applications, but for sure counts in their college GPA. For that reason, do not rush your child into a course before they’re ready, and consider taking only 1 course at first. Adjusting to a college schedule is difficult for most people of any age.

Withdrawal vs Failing

Lastly, during the 20 years I taught college classes, more than 90% of the “F” grades I had to issue were simply a result of a student failing to withdrawal. Meaning, the student didn’t fail for “academic” reasons, they simply didn’t withdrawal properly.  All colleges have a formal withdrawal process. NEVER allow your teen to just stop attending class—even if it’s an “online” class. If your teen is not going to pass their class, for any reason, withdrawal from the course immediately using the formal withdrawal procedure. You may or may not get any of your tuition back, but you are protecting their GPA, which is more important. Always withdrawal your teen instead of allowing a failing grade for the course.

Pro Tip: the course syllabus should state the last date to withdrawal from a course. If it doesn’t, contact the college advisor directly and find out asap. Don’t let that date pass without certainty that your teen will pass their course.

For the motivated student, it’s possible to earn an entire certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree along with his high school diploma. And yes, if your teen earns a degree IN HIGH SCHOOL they will still apply to college and for financial aid as a first time incoming freshman. College credit earned AFTER high school can turn your teen into a transfer applicant, but credit earned DURING does not.

To Keep in Mind for Out-of-State DE

  • dual enrollment out of state is always a self-pay situation
  • dual enrollment out of state will occur as a distance learning student
  • transfer arrangements are rare
  • choosing general education courses significantly improves chances of successful credit transfer
  • you do not have to earn a degree at the college you use for DE


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

2 thoughts on “What is Dual Enrollment?

  1. Thank you for this incredible information, which leads me to this question. I have a high school junior taking ASU classes and college classes. No major or college chosen yet. If he continues to take college classes after high school graduation, how long does he have to be out of high school to be considered a transfer student and not a first-time freshman?
    Thank you.

    1. The Studycom classes will never bump him into “transfer” status, but the ASU classes will. Many colleges publish their amount on their website, so it can vary slightly, but most of the time it is around 24 credits (8 classes) completed *after* high school. So, only count the ones that he takes after graduation if you’re trying to retain freshman status. Also noteworthy, not all colleges distinguish between freshman or transfer status, and of those that do, it only benefits you to retain freshman status when you’re looking at “freshman scholarships” which again, not all colleges offer. So while there are certain colleges that DO earmark money for a freshman, don’t fall for the marketing pitch that it is the end-all-be-all. 99% of the time, the math of coming in with lots of college credit beats any scholarship they are offering. -Jennifer

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