OSPI Explains: What are Dual Credit Programs?

On October 5, Superintendent Reykdal will announce his proposal to eliminate fees for Dual Credit programs in Washington state. In advance of that announcement, we’ll review the current state of Dual Credit in Washington state.

What are dual credit programs?

Dual credit programs provide students with the opportunity to earn high school and college course credits at the same time.

How do dual credit programs work?

There are two main types of dual credit programs:

Exam-based:

In an exam-based dual credit program, after completing required high school coursework, a student may choose to complete an exam, and apply to receive college credit based on the score they receive. Examples of exam-based dual credit programs include Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge International.

Course-based:

In a course-based dual credit program, a student is enrolled in a class at the high school (College in the High School and CTE Dual Credit) or the college (Running Start) that has the potential to earn both high school and college credit. Upon completion of the course, they may earn both the college and high school credit. Examples of course-based dual credit programs include Running Start, Career & Technical Education (CTE) Dual Credit, and College in the High School.

What are the benefits to enrolling in a dual credit program?

Dual credit has numerous benefits, including:

  • Reduced overall cost of college
  • Increased rates of high school graduation
  • Increased rates of college enrollment
  • Increased rates of ‘college persistence’ (i.e., the rate at which students return for a second year of college courses)
  • Helping students gain academic skills needed for college
  • Providing students with the confidence that they are “college material”

Are there barriers that exist in dual credit attainment?

Yes. The primary barrier to dual credit attainment is cost. In Washington state, there is a 15% gap in participation between students from low-income families and their peers from middle- and high-income families.

Dual credit attainment costs vary by program, from $350 per class for College in the High School, to over $950 for Running Start. In Washington state, subsidies exist for exam-based dual credit programs, which may charge between $53 and $178 per exam, but only covered 8.3% of students enrolled in programs in 2022.

As the most affordable dual credit option for students, CTE Dual Credit courses have been successful in breaking down barriers to entry, and enrollment in these programs is the most socio-economically diverse. However, the industry-standard equipment and technology often required of CTE Dual Credit programs is expensive, and federal support ended for the program in 2011. Due to its reliance on individual course articulation agreements between colleges and high schools, CTE Dual Credit options, expectations, and transcription practices vary by school and district. CTE Dual Credit programs often lead to an Industry Recognized Credential, which may range in cost from a Food Handlers Permit ($10) to a Certified Dental Assisting credential ($450). These are employer-valued and transferable as a student transitions to the workforce, but the cost can be a barrier for students and their families.

Where can students earn dual credit?

Students can earn dual credit in high school classrooms or at colleges participating in Running Start.

Where can I find additional information?

Dual credit programs vary by school district, but 97% of districts offer dual credit opportunities to students. For more information on programs for you or your student, reach out to your school district.

For more information on Dual Credit attainment in Washington state, please visit our website.

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The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Led by Supt. Chris Reykdal, OSPI is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state.