What Makes A Quality Dual Credit Program?

Counselor Resources

Your students have a number of options when it comes to earning college credit during high school, and dual credit is one of the most cost-effective. As you look at dual credit partners, here are some qualities to keep in mind as you evaluate which program is best for your students.

What to Look For: High-Quality Instruction

It won’t matter how transferable the course credit is if students don’t learn the material. If they don’t understand the key objectives, the course doesn’t serve students’ needs. Be sure the dual credit program has obvious objectives listed for each course and a complete and accessible syllabus. Check to see that the syllabus is mapped to the course objectives and has learning activities throughout the course. The learning activities should include both formative and summative assessments, such as multiple choice quizzes to check for understanding of the material as well as opportunities to analyze various big-picture themes through papers and discussion prompts.

If you are opting for an online course that includes instruction, check to see that the instructor is clearly identified and that the person teaching the course has significant experience in that subject area, preferably teaching in an online environment.

What to Look For: Transferability

When your students successfully complete a dual credit course, you don’t want them to have to take additional tests or jump through a million hoops to get the credit applied to the college they will be attending. As you evaluate your dual credit partner, have them walk you through the process of actually getting the college credit and make sure that the credit can be transferred to colleges other than where the course originated. For example, one of our transcripting partners at TEL Education is Oklahoma Christian University. As a regionally accredited university, credit earned from Oklahoma Christian University should transfer successfully to most colleges and universities in the U.S., though the final decision on what is accepted ultimately lies with the receiving school.

What to Look For: Costs

For dual credit programs, there can be a variety of costs associated with enrolling and completing the course. Have the program detail these costs explicitly so you understand what your school and students will be required to pay.

Registration or Enrollment Fee: 

This fee usually goes to the credit-granting college to offset the costs of getting the student set up in the system and creating the transcript upon completion. This is often an annual fee per student, but it may be a one-time charge.

Course Fee: 

This is the cost of taking the course and will be charged for each course the student takes.


Like most college courses, students are responsible for the course materials. Sometimes the courses use open and free materials, but sometimes the student will need to pay for the books and other resources. If the student is required to purchase materials, that should be clearly identified in the course description or syllabus.

Depending on your high school, you may be able to cover some or all of the cost to the student based on reallocating resources and funds. Be sure to discuss the options with your administration.

What to Look For: A Good Partner

If you choose a college or university for your dual credit partner, the school likely has regional or national accreditation. For transferability, try to partner with a regionally accredited institution because the credits are more likely to transfer than nationally accredited colleges. Most colleges will list their accreditation on their website, but if you can’t find it, you can search the Department of Education’s database.

If you are looking to partner with an organization that works with several different colleges, you should be able to choose the college that best aligns with your students’ needs. As you are making that selection, check the accreditation of that college.

You also want a partner, either college or organization, that knows how to work with students like yours. Ask the school or organization who else they work with and get a reference. Also, ask about customer service. Who does your school call when there is a question and who do your students contact when they have a question?

Finding A Good Dual Credit Partner

There is no question that you want the best for your students, both while they are in high school and wherever their future takes them. Providing dual credit options in high school can help your students save time and money in their academic career, and also give them an idea of what a college course is like while they have the support systems of high school.

When you choose a dual credit partner, it’s important to know how their courses are structured, the different costs for your school and for the student, as well as how the process will work. Understanding all of these pieces will make a better experience for both you and your students.

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