UT Austin, Texas Colleges and Universities Partner to Improve Dual Credit Quality and Innovation in Texas

OnRamps, UT Austin, dual credit

AUSTIN, Texas – The University of Texas at Austin is launching a new statewide collaboration to ensure Texas students get the most out of dual credit coursework. The project will bring together leading educational innovators from across the state to identify best practices for high-quality dual credit instruction and coursework that helps students reach their postsecondary goals.

The TEXAS OnRamps Dual Credit Innovation Collaborative (DCIC ) partners include Austin Community College, El Paso Community College, Houston Community College, Texas Tech University and UT Austin. The group will work together to increase the long-term value of dual credit for students, institutions and the state.

Dual credit courses enable students to earn college credit while they are still pursuing their high school diplomas. During the past 15 years, the popularity of dual credit courses in Texas has risen dramatically, with student enrollment increasing by 650 percent from 2000 to 2015. The rapid expansion of dual credit has raised questions among policymakers who worry about the quality of dual credit coursework and its value to students, their families and the state’s college completion policy agenda.

“We know that dual credit courses can substantially increase the chances for a wide diversity of students to complete college degrees and certificates. The benefits occur primarily by lowering the cost of a college degree and closing gaps in academic expectations at the postsecondary level,” said Julie Schell, UT Austin’s director of OnRamps and strategic initiatives, who will oversee the DCIC. “However, the power of dual credit expansion is unleashed only when the courses are of high quality, applicable to students’ educational programs, and at an appropriate level of rigor.”

The purpose of the collaboration is to identify best practices for quality, rigor and innovation in dual credit and to scale those findings in a three-part model. The model will include a framework and endorsement infrastructure for defining dual credit standards and metrics for instructional excellence, quality, rigor and innovation in Texas. The model will also include a dual credit faculty fellowship during which select faculty fellows from partner institutions will participate together in DCIC-designed, innovative professional learning experiences.

“Houston Community College (HCC) has transformed their dual credit program and is experiencing tremendous enrollment growth and structural success as a result. We see very clearly the current and future impact taking dual credit classes has on students’ lives. We are excited to participate in this collaborative and make an impact on dual credit programs throughout the state of Texas,” said Catherine O’Brien, DCIC project chair and associate vice chancellor of college readiness for HCC.

This unique cross-institutional collaboration will have a targeted focus on accelerating educational innovation and bolstering the quality of dual credit opportunities throughout Texas while ensuring alignment with regional and national accrediting bodies.

“At UT Austin we are enthusiastic about working with our community college colleagues in Austin, Houston and El Paso, and our current OnRamps replication partner Texas Tech, to ensure that students and institutions across the state can experience the educational benefits of high-quality dual credit coursework,” said Harrison Keller, deputy to the president for strategy and policy [DCIC, project sponsor] at UT Austin. “We look forward to sharing what we are learning through Texas OnRamps and other UT Austin initiatives, collaborating with these community colleges to expand access to high-quality opportunities for Texas students, and developing new knowledge about effective approaches to delivering college-level learning experiences in high schools.”

The DCIC will

  • yield great insights for diffusing dual credit innovation and fidelity in Texas.
  • serve as a hub for instructional excellence and best-in-class professional learning and preparedness for dual credit educators
  • connect leading dual credit innovators, promoting the exchange of cutting-edge ideas across the state
  • create and endorse institutional systems for Texas dual credit fidelity, monitoring, accountability
  • provide scalable models for increasing the long-term value of dual credit for Texas students