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College credit in high school: Doing the math on costs

Marguerite Roza and Caitlin Brooks

Published December 2017 by Edunomics Lab

While many policymakers see college credit attainment programs as potential cost savings, little research has examined the actual savings (if any) tied to taking college classes in high school. This Rapid Response brief helps fill the gap, investigating and comparing the costs of providing college credit in high school in three states with the costs of attaining credit after high school.

We examine costs paid by public dollars, in addition to costs borne by students and families (private dollars). This analysis seeks to uncover the incremental spending per pupil for a three-credit college course taken while in high school. This means we aim to identify any extra spending (both public funding and student-paid tuition or fees) beyond what is typically funded per pupil for public high school. We find that none of the three states yielded a public savings for credits accumulated via dual enrollment. And we find that the cost implications vary substantially by state and program, hinging on funding details in a state’s dual enrollment design and its education funding formula.

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