Kentucky high school students make big gains in dual credit

High school student participation in dual credit programs is on the rise in Kentucky with an overall 69 percent increase over two years. This is welcome news to Kentucky policymakers who have worked to expand greater student access to affordable college opportunities and college completion.

Overall dual credit program growth, 2014-15 compared to 2016-17.
Dual credit program growth, 2014-15 compared to 2016-17.

Dual credit programs are cost-effective ways for students to earn both high school and college credit while still in high school. These programs are expected to boost the size and quality of Kentucky’s workforce since studies show that high school students who participate in dual credit coursework have increased college enrollment and on-time college graduation rates.

Two key developments led to the gains in dual credit participation. First, the Council on Postsecondary Education approved a dual credit policy in June 2015, which became effective in the fall 2016 semester.

This policy provides eligible high school students with access to a minimum of three general education courses and three career and technical education courses in career pathways that are meaningful in today’s workplace.

The policy also guides the ways to increase student access to dual credit programming and provides guiding principles and evidence-based practices to support and maintain the quality of both faculty and coursework, and the transferability of credit between postsecondary institutions.

The second significant policy development came when Gov. Matt Bevin signed an Executive Order in June 2016 establishing a Dual Credit Scholarship Program that allowed every Kentucky high school graduate to earn credit for two college courses, at no cost to the student.

In March 2017, the state legislature codified the Dual Credit Scholarship Program with House Bill 206. This law established the distribution of funding for the scholarship program and the cost per credit hour for dual credit coursework. Eligible dual credit courses include both general education classes, and career and technical education courses in state-approved career pathways that lead to an industry-recognized credential.

CPE’s Dual Credit Advisory Council will continue to oversee the implementation of the policy and will create an accountability system for monitoring the progress of dual credit programming.

The policy implementation and the Dual Credit Scholarship Program have driven significant gains in participation, credit hours earned and savings to students and their families.

And as a policy driver, these gains show great promise in advancing CPE’s 2030 goal, which calls for at least 60 percent of Kentucky’s working-age population to have earned a high-quality postsecondary certificate, associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree.


  • The number of high school students taking college courses at KCTCS colleges more than doubled in two years, increasing from 12,656 students in 2014-15 to 25,616 in 2016-17.
  • The number of high school students taking college courses on public four-year campuses increased by 43 percent in that same timeframe, from 15,778 students to 22,560 between 2014-15 and 2016-17.
  • The overall increase in dual credit participation is 69 percent, up from 28,434 to 48 ,176 between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

Credit hours:

  • Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the number of college credit hours taken by high school students increased from just over 44,000 at Kentucky public universities to nearly 65,500 credit hours.
  • At KCTCS, the number of credit hours taken by high school students increased from nearly 35,000 to more than 75,000 in the same timeframe.
  • The overall total for dual credit/enrollment 2016-17 was 140,487; a 78 percent increase from 2014-15. These credit hours include both those taken through the dual credit scholarship program, as well as those accessed through other means.

Dual Credit Scholarship Program:

  • In its first year, the Kentucky Dual Credit Scholarship Program saved Kentucky students and their families over $4.5 million.
  • The scholarship program played a significant role in the increase in dual credit participation. In 2016-17, nearly 25,000 high school students earned 87,283 credit hours through dual credit scholarships at Kentucky’s public community and technical colleges and private and public universities.
  • Most students receiving scholarships took English, mathematics or career and technical education courses.