UT System study finds dual credit courses generally benefit students

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Texas OnRamps and Strategic Initiatives

The UT System released a comprehensive study revealing students who take dual credit courses in high school have higher college retention rates and perform better overall.

Dual credit programs allow high schoolers to take a college course taught by a professor and receive high school and college credit simultaneously. The results of the study showed clear benefits for students who utilize such programs, study lead David Troutman said in the report. 

“The good news is, the data show dual credit programs are having a significant and positive impact on student retention and student performance, even more so than we realized,” said Troutman, associate vice chancellor for Institutional Research and Decision Support at UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives.

From 2000 to 2017, the number of students taking dual credit courses increased by 753 percent, from almost 42,000 to 151,000, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. In the study, the System followed the outcomes of approximately 135,000 students entering UT schools between 2010 and 2015 and tracking them for six years afterward.

According to the study, students with dual credit hours are more likely to graduate in four years, and on average, they graduate one semester earlier. Speech pathology senior Kameron Stroh took eight dual credit classes in high school and will graduate a year early. 

“Taking dual credit absolutely impacted me graduating early,” Stroh said. “I came in with 24 credit hours just from those classes, so that’s already almost a full year … It probably helped my UT GPA because for some of the classes, I probably would not have done as well if I took them here (at UT).”

Stroh said dual credit courses at her high school were not as rigorous as UT courses but that she saved money by taking them. The System’s findings were inconclusive about the amount of money students save taking dual credit courses, and found that dual credit does not significantly reduce student loan debt.

“It did save me money because I got resident tuition at my local community college, which is a lot less than the tuition per credit hour here,” said Stroh, who is not taking out student loans. 

According to the study, students also reported that dual credit courses provide early exposure to college that benefited them when taking college courses in residence or after high school. 

This was not the case for chemistry junior Valeria Rivera, who said dual credit courses helped her complete core requirements, but she did not feel like they helped her prepare for college.

“I feel like dual credit classes didn’t really help me establish a study schedule or really teach me how to learn from my classes,” said Rivera, who entered college with about 38 dual credit hours. “I think dual credit is an easy way to get college credit … As long as I worked hard, I could get the credit like that.”