College is an investment of time and money, but more and more programs allow high school students to save by earning college credit before they graduate high school. Concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment are two options to do this.

But what are they? The terms concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Understanding that difference will help you choose the route that is best for you.


Dual Enrollment vs. Concurrent Enrollment

Rowdy slinging high fives to prospective students.Both dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment provide the chance to earn college credit while in high school, bypassing otherwise required course or degree requirements (specific requirements vary by institution). This is different from Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, which allow students to test out of entry-level college courses and replace them with more challenging ones.  

Because so many people use the words “dual enrollment” and “concurrent enrollment” to mean any class taken in high school for college credit, it’s easy to be confused about these terms. Here’s how they differ.


What is Concurrent Enrollment?

Concurrent enrollment occurs when a student takes a course  at their high school but gets college credit for it,. typically taught by the high school teacher. While each program is unique, one year-long concurrent courses often earn a student three college credits. 

High schools must have a partnership with a college or university to have a concurrent enrollment program. These are available with no tuition cost for the student. 


The Pros of Concurrent Enrollment

Concurrent enrollment programs tend to be from accredited universities. Depending on a school’s transfer credit acceptance policy, it’s often a seamless process to apply the coursework to a degree plan.. 

Secondly, concurrent enrollment is paid by the public school and its partnership with the college or university, not directly by the parents of the student. This helps with affordability, though students may need to purchase the required textbooks and school supplies. 

Because concurrent enrollment takes place at school, it does not require an additional time commitment. The student in a concurrent enrollment program takes a college-level class but does so at their high school, similarly to a regular English or math course.  

Finally, concurrent enrollment provides a head start on the collegiate journey, allowing students to get to graduation more quickly. 

What is Dual Enrollment? 

Dual enrollment programs require the student to attend college, either online or on-campus, earning credit for both college and high school graduation requirements. Many participating colleges have programs specifically designed to serve as dual enrollment classes, and some programs offer courses taught by college faculty members in high school classrooms. 

Dual enrollment does not necessarily require a formal school partnership, but the high school must be willing to accept dual credit programs as high school credit. 


The Pros of Dual Enrollment 

Whether in-person or online, dual enrollment gives the student the chance to experience what college is really like before they are first-year students. For many, this  is essential to finding success when beginning their higher-educational journey. 

Part of this is taking classes with college professors, providing the chance to learn at a slightly higher level than in the high school environment and, setting the stage for academic expectations to come. 

Dual enrollment also provides some flexibility. Students may be able to take classes in the evening or on the weekend, with some schools offering online options. This affords a high school student to fit their college coursework around a busy schedule. 

Like concurrent enrollment, dual enrollment helps students achieve college credit while still in high school. This option allows students to see if they are a good fit for the college experience and take some time to work on college-level courses in a part-time environment. It also can shorten the time to degree and provide some cost savings. 


How to Choose What’s Best for You

Both concurrent enrollment and dual credit enrollment provide  students the chance to earn college credit while completing their high school requirements,. with common course offerings including English composition or higher-level math.  

These two programs are not quite the same, however, with differences in the type of instruction received and the overall cost of the program. 

So, which one is right for you? To answer this, consider what is offered in your institution.. Since not all high schools have concurrent enrollment partnerships, your only option may be dual enrollment.  

Second, look at the colleges you’re considering. Do you need something you can easily transfer to another school, or are you set on attending the school offering the credits? 

Location matters, too. By enrolling in dual enrollment courses taught by college faculty members and based either on campus or within the online environment, you’ll get a more comprehensive preview of the higher educational experience without jumping in feet-first. 

If your school offers concurrent enrollment, this can be a cost-effective option to complete some college credits while finishing high school. If your school does not, dual enrollment is also a cost-effective option that gives you a fuller sense of the college experience, though it likely is not tuition-free. 

If you are interested in either concurrent enrollmentor dual enrollment and are involved in a Denver-area public school, Metropolitan State University of Denver has a program for you. We partner with several schools in the area to provide concurrent enrollment with minimal cost for families. To apply to be part of this program, talk to your school to see if you are qualified.  

For other questions about dual or concurrent enrollment and to see if it is a good fit for you, contact us  today.  

Read more about one student taking advantage of the ProStart dual enrollment program  and concurrent enrollment students at Smoky Hill High School earning Chicana/o Studies credit.

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