A Leg Up on College

Dual Enrollment in California

A Growing and Promising Practice Statewide


Research tells us that high school students who take college courses while they are still in high school benefit from the experience in both systems. To capitalize on the benefits of this dual enrollment, California and other states have moved to increase high school students’ access to college courses.

A Foot in the Door Researchers from the California Education Lab (UC Davis) have matched high school and community college datasets to provide a clearer picture of college course-taking among California public high school students statewide.

A Foot in the Door reveals that:

College course taking by high school students in California is more prevalent than previously understood: 18.2% of high school graduates from the 2018-19 cohort took a course at a community college at some point during their high school experience.

Participation has grown in recent years among all racial and socioeconomic groups of students, but disparities in participation, while shrinking, persist. Latinx, Black and socioeconomically disadvantaged students are underrepresented in community college course taking compared to their share of overall high school students. 

There may be  reason for optimism, however, in that a growing type of structured dual enrollment — courses that exclusively enroll high school students — appears to have more equitable participation across racial/ethnic subgroups. 

Despite increases in dual enrollment in recent years, student opportunity to take community college courses often depends on the high school they attend.

Download A Foot in the Door.

For dual enrollment participation by Race/Ethnicity, download the Appendix.

See news coverage of this research by EdSource and Community College Daily.​​​

Download our earlier research: A Rising Tide infographic.

For local/regional dual enrollment data, download the Appendix of County Level Stats.

Download A Leg Up on College, our original report on dual enrollment.

See the Presentations: Researchers and college leaders presented A Leg Up On College: Dual Enrollment Growth Across California’s Community Colleges at the Community College League of California annual conference In November 2020. 


In October 2021, College Futures Foundation hosted a live webinar featuring Wheelhouse and PPIC researchers, Fresno-based educators and dual enrollment advocates. View the webinar here.

Dual Enrollment in CaliforniaIn February 2020, EdSource, PACE and Wheelhouse hosted a live webinar with a panel of experts to explore dual enrollment. View the webinar here.

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