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Kiersten Essenpreis for Money

There’s a question that’s been creating plenty of angst for me as a parent being sucked into the vortex that is high school: Should my incoming ninth grader take a version of Algebra 2 that would give him both high school and college credit?

Word on the street is these types of advanced courses can help lower the bill for higher education. By how much, I wondered, and would universities hundreds of miles away agree to this deal?

It turns out, while experts say such dual enrollment courses do offer abundant benefits, saving money isn’t necessarily one I can count on.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

What is Dual Enrollment?

I knew teens could potentially earn college credit by taking Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. But this idea of high school students enrolling in actual college courses was new to me, even though dual enrollment programs have existed for decades. What’s more, these initiatives—which also go by names like dual credit and concurrent enrollmenthave grown significantly over the years. About a third of high schoolers participate in some form of dual enrollment, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Enrollment surged by more than 70% between 2002-03 and 2010-11, when the most recent national study took place.