e-Texas e-Texassmaller smarter faster governmentDecember, 2000
Carole Keeton Rylander
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Recommendations of the Texas Comptroller

Chapter 6: Education

Ensure the Quality of Community College Dual-Credit Offerings


Dual-credit arrangements between high schools and universities, colleges, and community colleges are designed to allow exceptionally qualified students to earn credit for college coursework performed while in high school. To ensure the quality of dual-credit courses, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) provides guidelines for these courses, including items such as student eligibility, faculty qualifications, and grading criteria. Some community colleges, however, are offering dual-credit classes that do not meet THECB’s criteria. State law should require the THECB to include dual-enrollment classes in its audits of community colleges to ensure compliance with its rules.


Texas secondary schools, colleges, and universities have worked in partnership for many years to provide qualified high school students with an early start on college-level coursework. Dual-credit agreements between high schools and institutions of higher education allow eligible students to earn college credits while completing high school. A successfully completed dual-credit course earns the student college credit that may be applied toward an associate degree from a community college or transferred to any public college in Texas.[1]

Dual-credit agreements help to make the transition from public to higher education seamless for the student. They can benefit high schools as well by broadening the number of elective courses they can offer, thus strengthening the overall quality of their curriculum and better preparing their students for college-level course work. They also help college instructors gain insight into the learning needs of high school students. Parents find that dual-credit courses help parents cope with the soaring cost of college tuition, since tuition paid at present is likely to be lower than it will be two years later after high school graduation. Finally, dual-credit arrangements move students through the educational pipeline in a shorter time.

Dual-credit courses are supposed to be the same college-level courses taught at the college campus, by faculty who possess the same credentials. Generally, the parents of high school students enrolling in dual-credit courses must pay full college tuition rates for the classes, although the state allows colleges to waive tuition and fees for high school students if they choose. State law also allows institutions of higher education to include these credit hours in the “contact hours” used to determine their state appropriations, even if they waive tuition requirements for the courses.

Section 130.008 of the Texas Education Code requires the state’s Commissioner of Education and Commissioner of Higher Education to jointly develop a mechanism to identify and eliminate any possible duplication of state funding for dual-enrollment courses. Both commissioners have agreed that colleges and universities should receive full funding for dual-credit courses they offer and that the amount of state funding school districts receive should be based on the number of high-school credit hours received on the high school campus.[2]

For most dual-credit courses, students receive both high school and college credit for courses that fulfill high school graduation requirements; generally, this credit is awarded upon successful completion of the course. There are, however, two exceptions:

Credit in escrow is offered for Tech-Prep courses that combine strong academic and workforce skills in a particular career path. In a Tech-Prep arrangement, high school students take college-level courses as part of an associate degree that they will complete at a community college. Tech-Prep students receive immediate credit for high school graduation, but the college credit (typically for technical courses) is held “in escrow” until after they have enrolled in community college and successfully completed the first semester.

Parallel enrollment allows high school students to earn college credit for courses not needed to satisfy their high school graduation requirements. Parallel-enrollment students receive college credit only upon successful completion of each course.

THECB Survey

In 1998, in an attempt to document the current practices of Texas institutions of higher education regarding dual-credit courses, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) conducted a statewide survey that was sent to 73 colleges and universities, generating a response rate of 84 percent.

The survey documented more than 13,000 students enrolled in 1,074 dual-credit courses taught during the school day at high school campuses. These classes generated a total of 828,268 contact hours, producing at least $2.4 million in state funding for the colleges and universities involved.[3] Of the dual-credit courses identified in the survey, 28 percent were taught by high school teachers; 61 percent were taught by part-time college faculty; and 11 percent were taught by full-time college faculty and other instructors. Of 61 colleges and universities responding to the survey, 50 charge the same tuition to high school students as they do to college students. Two charge high school students a discounted rate, and nine waive college tuition and fees for high school students.[4]

Deficiencies in Community College Practices

Prior to THECB’s survey, many basic program features concerning dual-credit courses—including selection, assessment, services, evaluation, course selection, faculty credentials, supervision and evaluation, and data collection for accountability studies—were left up to the colleges and universities offering the courses.

Both educators and THECB staff members, however, have questioned the quality of some dual-credit courses offered by community colleges. Since community colleges are authorized to include dual-credit courses in the contact hours that determine their state appropriations, they operate within a system that rewards expansion. Some community colleges use high school textbooks and teach high school-level material while awarding college credits.

To provide some guidance and quality assurance for dual-credit courses, in 1999 THECB adopted rules for community colleges to incorporate into their partnerships with school districts for dual-credit courses.[5] Among other things, the rules specify student eligibility requirements for dual-credit coursework; faculty qualifications; location and student composition of classes; required student support services; eligible courses; and grading criteria.

The most significant part of THECB’s rules requires students participating in dual-credit courses to pass all sections of the exit-level Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test as well as the Texas Academic Skills Program (TASP) test in those areas (reading, writing, math) applicable to the dual-credit coursework in question. The state, however, has no mechanism in place to ensure that colleges comply with THECB’s rules.


State law should require the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to include dual-credit classes in its audits of community colleges.

THECB conducts on-site reviews of community colleges’ programs. THECB could easily include dual-credit classes in its audits to ensure that colleges comply with THECB guidelines for student eligibility (passing all parts of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test and appropriate portions of the Texas Academic Skills Program). If a college fails to comply with the guidelines, its funding could be adjusted accordingly.

Fiscal Impact

This recommendation would have no fiscal impact on the state.

[1] V.T.C.A., Education Code §130.008(a).

[2] Alamo Community College District, Dual Credit Program: A High School And College Partnership Manual (San Antonio, Texas, May 1998), p. 2.

[3] Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, “Community and Technical College Credit Courses Enrolling High School Students for Concurrent Enrollment—Spring 1998, Summary of Responses from 63 Colleges” (Brochure); and telephone interview with Ken Vickers, director of Finance, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (Austin, Texas, June 16, 2000).

[4] Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, “Community and Technical College Credit Courses Enrolling High School Students for Concurrent Enrollment—Spring 1998, Summary of Responses from 63 Colleges.”

[5] Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, THECB Rules and Regulations, Chapter 9, Subchapter H (Austin, Texas, 2000) (http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/rules/9/9-h.htm). (Internet document.)

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

Privacy Policy