The Role of Academic Motivation and Engagement on the Relationship Between Dual Enrollment and Academic Performance


I examine whether academic motivation and engagement—conditions that advocates consider mechanisms for the effect of dual enrollment—account for the relationship between dual enrollment and academic performance. Few studies examine the claimed mechanisms that account for the impact of dual enrollment, which leaves the processes through which dual enrollment influences a student’s college experience as a black box. Using data from the Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, I find a positive direct effect of dual enrollment on first-year college GPA, which remains even after controlling for precollege variables. I further find students who participated in dual enrollment are more academically motivated and engaged than nonparticipants. Although dual enrolled students are more academically motivated and engaged in class than nonparticipants these indicators generally account for less than 20% of the effect of dual enrollment on academic performance. Finally, for some students (e.g., students who earned college credit through dual enrollment but not though examination), participation in dual enrollment exerts a stronger effect on first-year college GPA at midselective and very selective institutions than at highly selective institutions.