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Dual Enrollment Equity Through OER, for Underserved Populations in Higher Education

by Marielisbet Perez / Dec 1, 2021

Attending the “OER in Dual Enrollment” webinar was my effort of understanding how OER (open educational resources) is being researched and connected to dual enrollment equity. The “OER in Dual Enrollment: Leveraging Open Educational Resources to Expand Equitable Access report, prepared by Jennifer Zinth, outlined the webinar. The data analyzed for the study included 11 remote interviews with 19 state and local stakeholders in nine states. The study identified current policies and practices that demonstrate the best lessons learned about the use of OER in dual enrollment (Zinth, 2021).

Zinth (2021) says, “Dual enrollment, also known as concurrent enrollment, dual credit and by other terms, refers to college courses offered to high school students, often for both high school and college credit” (p. 2). Not every dual enrollment program is the same. Programs vary by instructor, course type, and location. Students may take in-person, online, or in-combination courses.

In her report, Zinth (2019) says, “Dual enrollment equity means that the student population in a state’s dual enrollment program mirrors the demographic, socioeconomic and geographic diversity of the state’s overall K-12 student population” (p.2). ExcelinEd Civil Rights Data Collection Analysis (2018) reported that millions of high school students in lower-income communities and communities of color continue not to access college prep courses at the high school level, even though the U.S. Department of Education (2020) reported 82% of public high schools offering ninth- to 12th-graders dual enrollment courses between 2017-2018 (U.S. Department of Education, 2020).

Additionally, one in five high schools do not offer Algebra I or higher, and one in four do not have access to biology, chemistry, or physics. This means 1,370,825 students do not have access to geometry, Algebra II, advanced math, or calculus, and 1,549,273 students do not have access to biology, chemistry, or physics (ExcelEd Civil Rights, 2018). Students who do not have access to these math and science courses are denied the opportunity to take classes that help prepare them for college and gain acceptance to four-year degree-granting institutions and STEM majors.

Zinth (2021) provides key takeaways in her report. One recommendation from stakeholders that stood out to me is that more conversations and involvement need to occur at the state level. Stakeholders suggested providing “state-supported training and a network of support” (p. 10) for institutional staff and faculty to help lessen the resistance of OER use.Power dynamics exist in the U.S. educational system, which is a business and bureaucracy, not a democracy. Therefore, state support is needed to guide the use and benefit of OER for lessening students’ costs and debt

Another recommendation from stakeholders is that more conversations need to be encouraged at state faculty meetings, informing about the barriers and high student debt that keep underserved populations from accessing and completing higher education degrees. Stakeholders say meeting conversations should encourage faculty to think about textbook costs and student debt for all students, not just enrolled college students.

More research is needed to understand how OER benefits dual enrollment equity and underrepresented students who are enrolled at community colleges (Perez et al., 2021). As one of the researchers for the Open Educational Resources project at the Office of Community College and Leadership (OCCRL), I can say that our goal is to assess the need and use of OER at community colleges in Illinois. We research the national and state barriers, trends, and equity practices that use OER to serve historically underrepresented students in higher education. The literature I analyzed in this research area does not clearly define OER’s initiatives but does report what institutions in Illinois are using OER materials and their value for students.

When it comes to underrepresented populations, there is no data to support the advantages of OER helping marginalized students and students with disabilities. Therefore, community colleges are valuable because these institutions serve students of diverse economic and special needs. If OER is a solution for offering students high-quality educational experiences that enhance dual enrollment equity, better teaching practices, inexpensive learning resources, and decreased textbook costs, then, as Zinth (2021) reported, more state-level support and funding need to be applied to OER initiatives. OER needs to be seen as a valuable option for getting underprivileged students from high school to completing postsecondary degrees without high college debt.



ExcelinEd Civil Rights Data Collection Analysis. (2018). College and career pathways: equity and access.

Perez, M., Del Real Viramontes, J., Yeo, H. T., Owolabi, N., & Zamani-Gallaher, E. M. (2021, June).  Fostering access, affordability, and equity: A primer on the role of open educational resources in Illinois career and technical education. Champaign, IL: Office of Community College Research and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2020). Dual or concurrent enrollment in public schools in the united states. Washington, D.C: Government Printing Office.

Zinth, J. (2019). Funding for equity: Designing state dual enrollment funding models to close equity gaps. College in High School Alliance.

Zinth, J. (2021). OER in dual enrollment: Leveraging open educational resources to expand equitable access. Midwestern Higher Education Compact and Southern Regional Education Board.