Financial Aid

Everything You Need to Know About Dual Enrollment

Get details on dual enrollment and find out if dual credit courses are right for you.

Shawna Newman

June 26, 2023

Everything You Need to Know About Dual Enrollment
Nearly 90% of U.S. high schools offer dual enrollment for students.
When it comes to looking for ways to lower the cost of college, the planning process should begin in high school! A term you may have heard, dual enrollment is a cost-saving method that’s growing in popularity. Nearly 90% of United States public high schools offer dual enrolment programs, and more than a quarter of students enroll in dual-credit college courses, according to the U.S. Department of Education. With a little planning, students can use dual enrollment to drastically cut the cost of college and speed up college completion time.

What is Dual Enrollment?

Dual enrollment, also referred to as dual credits, is a program that gives students the ability to take college-level courses while still enrolled in high school. Students earn both high school and college credits simultaneously.

Is dual enrollment harder than AP classes?

AP classes and dual enrollment courses are similar, but not the same. While both can earn you college credit, AP courses require you to take an exam and pass to earn college credit. A dual enrollment course requires students to sit through a typical semester course and participate in lessons or assignments to get a grade and earn college credit. AP courses may be considered harder, as students don’t learn in a classroom setting and are expected to already know the AP course material they’re being tested for. Most students that take AP classes have a strong existing knowledge of the course topic. Dual credit students sign up for the course to learn the topic material first and are tested or evaluated later to earn their grade and get college credit.

How Does Dual Enrollment Work?

Dual credit programs vary by school district. Most high schools offer intro college courses as part of their dual enrollment programs. Students can knock out college prerequisite courses, while also getting high school credit. Dual credit courses can be taken at high schools, local universities, and community colleges or online. Common dual-enrollment courses include: English College Algebra Math History Social Studies Speech Science

Dual Enrollment Requirements

Dual enrollment requirements vary by school, state and college. To make things easier, most dual credit administrators establish school requirements to mimic partner college(s) and state requirements.

Eligibility Requirements

Minimum GPA Requirements: Most programs require students to have a minimum GPA. The common minimum GPA for dual credit enrollment is 3.0. or specific ACT or SAT scores to take dual enrollment classes. Grade-Level Requirements: Most dual enrollment programs are available for high school juniors and high school seniors. Some schools allow sophomores to enroll in dual credit classes. Standardized Testing Requirements: In some cases, students must have taken a standardized test and have earned a specific PSAT, SAT, or ACT test score. Parent Permission: Dual credit courses require payment and include additional time studying. Parents and/or guardians would need to understand and give their student approval to take these courses. Letters of Recommendation: Letters are usually provided by principals, teachers and/or coaches. These recommendations assure dual credit program administrators that the student is capable of completing a dual credit course.

Benefits of Dual Enrollment

Saves Money

Enrolling in dual-credit courses is cost effective, as most classes are given at a discounted rate. Some dual enrollment classes cost $0, with most dual enrollment courses being offered at 50% off the traditional college student rate. Additionally, school districts and state-funded grants may also help to cover dual enrollment course costs. According to Education Data, the three-credit-hour cost for students attending an in-state public college is $1,170. Considering the same course at the dual enrollment level costs half the traditional cost, students and their families can substantially save on college tuition via dual enrollment programs.

Shortens Time in College

Taking college courses while in high school could also shorten the amount of course time for that student later at a university. This could also equate to spending less money on room and board and other college student fees and expenses.

529 Plan

Parents can use part of their 529 college savings account to pay for dual enrollment tuition. 529 withdrawals cannot, however, be used for textbooks or supplies.

Degree Completion

Multiple studies reflect that dual credit students are better prepared for college academics. In turn, dual credit students are more likely to earn their bachelor’s degree.

Drawbacks of a Dual Enrollment Program

Credit Transferability

Dual credits may not transfer to all universities. Be sure you understand which universities and colleges will accept the dual credit courses. Private and out-of-state colleges are less likely to accept dual credits.


If a course is not offered on the high school campus, the student will need to find a ride to get to and from the dual credit course. This can make it challenging for students without reliable transportation.


Dual credit courses are college-level classes. Students will spend more time reading and studying than they would with the high school course equivalent. Students involved in sports and other extracurricular activities may find dual credit courses take more effort than they have time for. It’s important to remember your final dual-credit grade will appear on your college transcript.

Is Dual Enrollment Right for You?

Dual enrollment is a wise idea for most high school students. It’s a great way to help lower the cost of college. Dual enrollment classes are challenging; students are encouraged to speak to their high school counselors to find out if dual credit courses are right for them.

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Shawna Newman

Managing Editor, Contributing Writer

Shawna Newman is the Managing Editor and a writer at Fastweb. She has over 10 years of experience in higher education. Her direct work with college admissions teams, financial aid officers, college deans, ...

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