College Credit in High School

A significant body of research suggests that earning college credit in high school has far-reaching positive effects on student success in both high school and college; studies show that students who successfully earn college credits during high school are more likely to enroll, succeed academically, and complete their degrees within four to six years. There are four primary methods by which students can earn college credit in high school: Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses, dual enrollment courses, or attending an Early College High School.

Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate

Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) are school-based programs, taught by high school educators, that provide college-level curricula and cumulative exams for high school subjects. In both programs, students are able to derive college credit from AP and IB coursework through passing scores on cumulative course examinations. IB also offers an International Baccalaureate diploma option, which includes IB coursework, a research project, and service learning components. These diplomas are recognized by colleges and universities internationally. AP courses are more widely available in the United States, with almost 14,000 high schools offering AP coursework in the 2012-2013 school year. International Baccalaureate, as its name suggests, is an global program, with a relatively small presence in U.S. high schools--International Baccalaureate currently grants diplomas at 868 U.S. high schools.

Dual Enrollment/Dual Credit Programs

Dual enrollment programs, sometimes called dual credit programs, provide students the opportunity to earn college credits while enrolled in high school. Some dual enrollment programs are operated on high school campuses; others require students to travel to college or university campuses. Likewise, in some programs dual enrollment courses are taught by high school instructors; others are taught by college and university instructors. In programs where courses are taught by

Early College High Schools

Developed in 2002 with leadership from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Early College High School is a whole-school model of dual enrollment, which gives all students built-in opportunities to earn college credit alongside their high school diploma. Students at Early College High Schools, which strategically target students from low-income families and students of color, take a combination of high school and college courses, and can earn up to two years of college credit, or an Associate’s Degree. Currently, there are 208 early colleges serving more than 80,000 students each year, with plans to continue expanding.