• By Steve Kemgang • IDRA Newsletter • February 2023 •

A college education is one of the best ways to ensure young people can achieve their goals. Providing students with early support through counseling, advising and college preparation gives all students, particularly historically marginalized students a fighting chance to meet the social, career, and life objectives they have for themselves, their families, and their communities (Abel & Deitz, 2019; Torpey, 2021; Petrilli, 2017).

Students who do not attend college are 40% more likely to be unemployed (Torpey, 2021). They are four times more likely to remain in poor living conditions. At the height of COVID-19, they were three times more likely to lose employment (Kochhar, 2020).

Many historically-marginalized students continue to face systemic barriers to college, such as access to financial aid, grants, and scholarships and inadequate college preparation, that prevent them from either enrolling in college or completing a degree.

One powerful way to remove barriers is to invest in dual credit and aid programs that support affordability to advance educational equity and to create pathways for all students, especially those who experience these obstacles at disproportionate levels.

In dual credit programs, including early college high school programs, high school students enroll in college-level courses. The credits they earn can be applied to their college course requirements without paying college tuition for the class.

In Texas, students who enroll in these programs have a higher likelihood of remaining on track to complete their degrees and have better college outcomes (Miller, et al., 2017). Since 2000, participation and enrollment in dual credit programs increased by over 57% (THECB, 2018).

However, Black and Latino students and students in families with low incomes are underrepresented in these programs. The pandemic further contributed to an overall decline in dual credit enrollment (Villarreal, 2021).

Remote learning issues, students working to help with household necessities, and students pursuing alternative pathways to earn an income due to the burdensome cost of a college education have led to declines in college enrollment for Texas students, with Texas community colleges experiencing an 11% drop in enrollment since 2020 (McGee, 2021).

It is pressing that Texas establish a relevant and equitable funding model to help alleviate these hurdles. We must expand access to early college advising and invest in dual credit and financial aid programs that support affordability to help students access and succeed in higher education.

We also must strategically adapt these priorities to the recent challenges and circumstances that our students face. Students are our future and our collective investment in them is investing in the good of our state of Texas and our society at large.


Abel, J., & Deitz, R. (2019). Despite Rising Costs, College Is Still a Good Investment. Liberty Street Economics.

Kochhar, R. (2020). One-quarter of young adult workers have lost their jobs in the COVID-19 downturn. Pew Research Center.

McGee, K. (October 21, 2021). Texas community colleges have seen an 11% drop in enrollment since the start of the COVID pandemic. KERA & Texas Tribune.

Miller, T., Kosiewicz, H., Wang, E.L., Marwah, E.V., Delhommer, S., & Daugherty, L. (2017). Dual Credit Education in Texas: Interim Report. RAND Corporation.

Petrilli, M. (2017). Education is still a sturdy path to upward mobility. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

THECB. (May 2018). Overview: Dual Credit. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Torpey, E. (2021). Education pays, 2020: Career Outlook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Villarreal, A. (2021). Pandemic reduces number of high school students taking dual enrollment courses. Hechinger Report.

Note: The articles in this issue of the IDRA Newsletter feature the research and policy advocacy of IDRA’s education policy fellows. The IDRA Education Policy Fellows program is a nine-month fellowship designed to provide real-world training to advocates who represent the communities most impacted by state-level education policymaking. Get more information about the program, including how to support the fellows’ work.

Steve Kemgang is an IDRA education policy fellow. Comments and questions may be directed to him via email at steve.kemgang@idra.org.

[©2023, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the February 2023 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]