Within the fall of 2016, the workplace of Federal Pupil Help (FSA) launched a set of pilot applications to evaluate potential expansions of federal monetary assist. One in all these applications allowed taking part faculties to award Pell Grants to eligible highschool college students concurrently pursuing school coursework. This program, set to finish in summer time 2022, was established to extend entry to twin enrollment and subsequent school attendance for college students of low-income households.

In a latest article printed in Instructional Analysis and Coverage Evaluation (EEPA), we present that this program not solely failed to extend low-income college students’ entry to twin enrollment however could have really decreased entry. Regardless of the great intentions behind this system, it created new boundaries to twin enrollment for faculties and households. These unintended penalties supply essential classes for policymaking.  

Why twin enrollment?

Twin enrollment, or taking school programs whereas in highschool, is a well-liked technique for getting a jumpstart on school coursework. Amongst college students within the 2012 highschool graduating cohort, 34 p.c participated in twin enrollment. That is usually a prudent selection. Twin enrollment is related to many constructive outcomes for college students, together with elevated probability of enrolling in school, elevated school GPAs, decreased time to diploma, and elevated diploma completion. Nonetheless, the everyday twin enrollment scholar has dad and mom who went to school and is just not low-income. This implies entry to twin enrollment—and the advantages that accompany it—is stratified.  

This stratification stems partially from stark state and native variations in how twin enrollment is funded. For instance, in Georgia, twin enrollment is fully financed by the state; in Iowa, by the scholar’s college district; in Maryland, by a mix of the scholar’s college district and the scholar or father or mother; and in Nevada, by the scholar or father or mother. Even in locations the place tuition is roofed, different charges, similar to registration and books, will not be. And college students nonetheless have to use to take part, fulfill the identical (or stricter) tutorial necessities, and preserve passable tutorial progress.  

The intervention: Utilizing Pell for twin enrollment (with strings hooked up)

The Pell initiative was easy: eligible college students may use Pell Grants to pay for twin enrollment at taking part faculties. Nonetheless, there have been strings hooked up. First, Pell Grants awarded to highschool college students counted towards college students’ six years of Pell eligibility. By utilizing Pell for twin enrollment, college students began their “Pell clocks” and had fewer years of Pell obtainable once they finally enrolled in school as undergraduates. Second, establishments may decide which of their twin enrollment choices have been obtainable to Pell grantees (e.g., on the school campus, in the highschool, or on-line) and will add eligibility necessities (e.g., limiting participation to college students from explicit localities they serve). There have been strings hooked up for establishments, too. For instance, if a scholar was eligible for any quantity of Pell, the establishment couldn’t cost them for any tuition. 

Did this system enhance low-income college students’ twin enrollment participation and postsecondary attendance?

Our examine assesses the consequences of this initiative utilizing information from 4 states. We use a difference-in-differences method. Principally, we start by evaluating outcomes, earlier than and after this system launched, for low-income highschool college students residing inside 20 miles of a taking part school (affected areas). Subsequent, we measure modifications over the identical interval for college students residing inside 20 miles of schools in these similar states that had twin enrollment however didn’t take part on this Pell program (unaffected areas). We take the distinction between the modifications within the affected and unaffected areas as our estimate of this system’s results. We do that to take away potential biases. 

As proven in Determine 1, we discover small, detrimental results on low-income college students’ twin enrollment participation. As we restricted the pattern to college students increasingly more likely to be eligible for Pell Grants (utilizing household earnings, family earnings within the zip code, and mom’s degree of training), we discovered proof of even stronger detrimental results.

bar chart depicting enrollment decreases based on students whose mother did not attend college and low-income background
Determine 1. Click on to view the picture full-size in a brand new tab.

Our outcomes counsel the Pell program not solely failed to extend twin enrollment participation however launched new boundaries, yielding decrease participation. Previous to the Pell program, many states already backed or waived twin enrollment tuition. This restricted demand for Pell awards. Additional, this system launched laborious monetary assist processes and institutional constraints that will have made twin enrollment even much less interesting to low-income college students (and the directors guiding them via the applying course of).  

As a result of this system didn’t present a big general influence on twin enrollment, we could count on that it didn’t influence subsequent school attendance both. Certainly, within the mixture, that is what we discover. Upon disaggregating results by establishment sort, nevertheless, we discover this system could have spurred two-year school enrollment on the expense of four-year enrollment (Determine 2).  

bar chart representing student dual enrollment program change factored by low-income and students' mother not attending college
Determine 2. Click on to view the picture full-size in a brand new tab.

What options of implementation impeded success?

So, what occurred? Why may this program not solely fall wanting its supposed outcomes however apparently have detrimental results?  

After conducting website visits and interviews with twin enrollment practitioners and highschool companions at 4 taking part faculties, we recognized three potential explanations: 

 Failing to Meet Pupil Wants: Collaborating in twin enrollment requires extra than simply tuition, notably in locations the place tuition is already coated. Transportation, for instance, remained a main barrier for a lot of low-income college students. Moreover, college students wanted supportive studying environments to keep up tutorial eligibility for twin enrollment. This concerned robust relationships between highschool companions and school personnel. Nonetheless, the Pell program launched challenges to those fragile (and sometimes new) relationships. This system’s complexities invited miscommunication about long-term impacts on college students’ Pell eligibility, and its summer time launch timing left school employees scrambling to coordinate with highschool counselors. These processes didn’t simply function momentary inconveniences; additionally they impacted counselors’ belief within the school.   

Pell Clock Nervousness: Highschool counselors steadily expressed concern about college students drawing on their restricted lifetime Pell eligibility for twin enrollment. This stored counselors from actively recruiting college students into this system. These misgivings have been most prevalent at faculties with out established histories of scholar success with twin enrollment companions.  

Administrative Burdens: Collaborating establishments launched new administrative burdens to implement this system, together with navigating points with FAFSA completion and verification, coordinating outreach and recruitment, and monitoring scholar progress.  

Although each school we visited had completely different challenges, these have been probably the most prevalent. These challenges meant program coordinators have been usually overworked and highschool counselors have been cautious about encouraging college students to take part.  

We see implications for coverage from these findings. First, locations with the best want are typically these with the least room to scaffold coverage implementation. These establishments and the scholars they serve could not be capable of profit from even probably the most well-intentioned insurance policies. Furthermore, federal coverage is usually designed to deal with broad issues, like low-income college students’ twin enrollment entry. Coverage options are equally broad, usually with out consideration to native wants. As a result of twin enrollment has largely been a state and native endeavor, it could be value exploring find out how to replicate, assist, and scale efficient applications at these ranges.  

You possibly can learn the complete journal article in Instructional Analysis and Coverage Evaluation: “Rising Success in Greater Schooling: The Relationships of On-line Course Taking With School Completion and Time-to-Diploma.“

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