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Targeted interventions needed to ensure greater access, awareness

November 30, 2023 (CHICAGO) – The Illinois Workforce & Education Research Collaborative (IWERC), part of the University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute, released a report on dual credit participation among high school students in Illinois. This research into dual credit participation was funded by a 2022 grant from the Joyce Foundation.

The report reveals critical insights into key trends, challenges, and opportunities in delivering equitable access and participation in dual credit, which allows high school students to earn both high school and college credits simultaneously. While dual credit has demonstrated positive impacts on academic outcomes, disparities in access and participation persist. The study emphasizes the importance of addressing these inequities.

Key Findings:

  • Increased Overall Participation: From the 2018-19 school year (SY19) through the 2021-22 school year (SY22), DC participation in Illinois increased 3.8 percentage points among all demographic subgroups, including underrepresented racial/ethnic subgroups, students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), English Learners (ELs), and low-income students. This finding mirrors national trends, as do widening participation gaps.
  • Widened Participation Gaps: While participation increased for all subgroups, growth was most pronounced among White and Asian students, leading to widened statewide participation gaps. In addition to participation gaps, the trend raises concerns about the equitable distribution of educational opportunities.
  • District Disparities: When comparing between districts, participation was higher and increased more in districts serving predominantly White students. Participation was lower for students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), English Learners (ELs), and low-income students. Further, rural and town districts showed higher participation rates compared with schools in urban settings.
  • Within-District Progress: Within districts, incremental progress was made in increasing participation among American Indian/Alaska Native, Latinx, and EL students. However, progress was slower for other subgroups, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions to ensure greater awareness, access, and participation in dual credit.

The research underscores the need for a dual approach in addressing disparities: (1) increasing dual-credit coursework offerings — especially in urban and suburban districts — and (2) focusing within districts to boost participation among specific underrepresented subgroups. Recognizing the significance of equitable access, Illinois has undertaken legislative efforts in recent years. These include the Education and Workforce Equity Act, the Dual Credit Quality Act (DCQA), and the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act (PWR). These acts aim to eliminate barriers, ensure course rigor, and expand access to dual credit. “Illinois has worked hard to increase dual credit access and participation. Findings from the report show that substantial progress has been made, but a great deal more work must be done if participation gains are to be reflected equitably,” said Sarah Cashdollar, associate director of research at IWERC and author of the report. “IWERC’s research into dual credit underscores the urgency of addressing disparities in participation. The findings provide actionable insights for policymakers, educators, and community leaders to foster equitable access to rigorous educational opportunities,” said Meg Bates, director of IWERC at Discovery Partners Institute.

IWERC released the report this week in conjunction with a webinar on dual credit in Illinois hosted by CCAPS, College and Career Access Persistence and Success. The webinar will be made available on demand, and includes prominent speakers from IWERC, ISBE, ICCB, a K-12 district and community college partnership, and a national policy group.

For additional report findings, contact Sarah Cashdollar, associate director of research, Illinois Workforce & Education Research Collaborative, at

About The Illinois Workforce & Education Research Collaborative at DPI

IWERC, a research unit of Discovery Partners Institute, part of the University of Illinois System, conducts rigorous, relevant, and timely cradle-to-career research. IWERC collaborates with community partners to co-construct solutions to pressing issues and ensure informed decision-making leads to statewide equity advancement. IWERC is an applied research initiative of Discovery Partners Institute, which also advances tech talent development and business building in Chicago. With state investment, an innovation district in development, and a high-powered network of university partners regionally and internationally as a part of the University of Illinois System, DPI has the resources to attract, develop, retain, and leverage the most ambitious talent in Chicago to address global challenges in our environment, agriculture, industry, life sciences, and shared digital future. Learn more about IWERC at