Dual Enrollment and Concurrent Enrollment — What’s the Difference?

A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics reported that a third of high school students in the 2009 to 2013 cohort took dual-enrollment classes, mostly at their own schools.

This is an important trend in high school and homeschool education in the U.S., but it also brings to mind a common question we receive here at TEL Library. “What’s the difference between dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment.

For starters, I should point out that many people use these terms interchangeably or use “dual enrollment” as a catch-all term for any scenario where an enrolled high school student is simultaneously taking courses for college credit.

At TEL, we use the term dual enrollment specifically to describe a scenario where students are enrolled in a course or courses that count for both high school and college credit. Dual-enrollment courses generally focus on subject areas between high school and college where there is a clear overlap, such as U.S. History, Chemistry, English Composition, and Algebra,

This scenario is valuable to students who want to begin their college studies while still in high school but who still need their courses to count toward high school graduation. TEL is able to help schools and students pursue dual-enrollment studies by providing courses that have been approved for college credit and, at the same time, that are aligned with high school requirements (generally state standards).

For high school students who have already met their graduation requirements, concurrent enrollment allows them to take college courses in addition to or instead of their high school courses. With concurrent enrollment, schools, parents, and students aren’t concerned about the courses meeting subject standards for high-school courses.

All TEL courses can be taken for concurrent enrollment as they offer transcripted college credit through our institutional partners.

Whether students pursue early college credit through dual-enrollment or concurrent-enrollment programs, the primary benefits are the same.

1. Taking college-level courses in high school helps prepare students for the academic rigors of college study, which can improve the likelihood of attaining a degree.

2. Both dual-enrollment and concurrent-enrollment studies lower the cost of college in multiple ways. With TEL, for example, students pay a fraction of the costs they would incur taking the same courses while enrolled and a college or university. In addition, taking college general education courses while still in high school will likely shorten a student’s time to degree completion. Finally, dual-enrollment and concurrent-enrollment studies give students a clearer idea of their interests and attitudes, which leads to fewer costly missteps associated with changing majors.

3. Completing college-credit courses in high school also gives students a more realistic understanding of the academic and social skills that they will need to succeed in college. This helps ensure improved academic performance from the time they begin full-time college studies.

4. Finally, dual-enrollment and concurrent-enrollment programs can provide valuable curricular options for students, particularly in schools or groups that, due to small size or inadequate funding, are unable to offer interesting and impactful course options.

 Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.
Executive Director, TEL Library

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