Popularity for Illinois’ Dual Credit Program Continues to Rise with Illinois High School Students

More than 500,000 students have earned early college credit before High School graduation since 2010

Over the last decade, the Illinois’ Dual Credit Program has seen a steady enrollment increase of more than 5.9% annually with more than half-a-million students earning over 3.1 million college credits while still in high school. The program allows students across the state to earn college credit while still in high school and save money after graduation.

According to Dr. Isaac Zuniga, Vice President of Student Success, “Richland has been supporting and growing our dual credit offerings steadily for years. As a former early college student, I can attest that many students enrolled in early college programs are made up of first-generation students who, with guidance and campus support, can be successful in taking advantage of the opportunity to learn about college and earn college credits while in high school. This experience has had an immense impact on my professional career.”

Dual credit programs administered through the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) allow academically qualified high school students to explore various academic areas and experience the rigor of college-level coursework. Upon successful course completion, students earn both high school and college credit.

Allie Schelling, 17, Maroa-Forsyth senior, says, “Dual credit classes have been so helpful allowing me to complete my required high school courses and college general education courses all at once. I have had jobs, played sports, been a part of FFA, yearbook, and other clubs at my high school and with dual credit courses offered online this was all possible. Allie plans to attend Illinois State University in the fall to study Early Childhood Education. “I only have six classes left to get my associate degree. My credit transfer allows me to take the last four classes at ISU and reverse transfer back to Richland to get my associates degree while starting on classes toward my major. Without dual credit classes none of this would’ve been possible.”

Richland has enjoyed partnerships with several local districts in offering dual credit opportunities including those at Heartland Tech Academy, which provides career exploration and training to approximately 500 high school juniors and seniors in Decatur and the surrounding area in 15 program areas. Most recently Richland has worked with Decatur Public Schools to develop The Prep Academy. Students accepted into this program will not only earn their high school diploma but also their associate’s degree from Richland upon completion of the four-year program.

According to Dr. Denise Crews, Vice President of Academic Services, “The Prep Academy is the direct result of people coming to the table with a willingness to work together to benefit our students and community. It is an exciting collaboration with Richland’s high school neighbors, offering students another avenue to meet their educational goals.”

A new report released by the ICCB found that for those students who took dual credit, the rate at which they completed college was 20% higher than for those students who did not take dual credit. This finding was especially true for who are traditionally underserved in higher education.

The value of the Dual credit program speaks for itself with an increasing number of high school students earning early college credits each year over the past decade.

Fiscal Year Total Students
Dual Credit
Total Dual Credit Enrollment Hours Total Dual Credit
Earned Hours
% of Dual Credit Hours Earned
FY11 41,645 247,900.50 228,292.50 92.1%
FY12 45,365 275,173.50 264,688.50 96.2%
FY13 49,763 303,766.00 292,529.50 96.3%
FY14 50,091 309,834.50 296,689.50 95.8%
FY15 51,718 327,140.00 313,214.00 95.7%
FY16 54,871 342,716.00 327,990.50 95.7%
FY17 57,897 352,803.00 338,666.50 96.0%
FY18 59,039 360,273.00 345,610.50 95.9%
FY19 64,106 386,796.00 372,053.09 96.2%
FY20 69,299 409,873.00 388,864.50 94.9%
Total 543,794 3,316,275.50 3,168,599.09 95.5%

Throughout the last 10 years of the Dual Credit program, student enrollment has increased by an average of 6.6%, and more than 8% in each of the last two years.