Rachel Martin


Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2023

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



A majority of high school students in the United States aspire to earn a postsecondary degree, yet far fewer of these students enroll in and complete college. Further, matriculation and degree attainment is not equitable across race and class, despite the high aspirations that students across identity markers hold. These inequities are artifacts of an educational system that has separated students by race, class, and perceived academic ability for over 100 years. In the U.S., white and wealthy students are traditionally tracked into “high-level” classes that prepare them for college, staffed with highly trained teachers and gold standard resources. On the other hand, students of color and students from lower income backgrounds are tracked into “low-level” classes that lack educational resources and prepare them to immediately enter the workforce. Access to challenging, advanced academic coursework in high school is a critical component for preparing students for college, but these opportunities are not equitably distributed.

Dual enrollment (DE) is an increasingly popular college preparation program implemented by school districts in partnership with postsecondary institutions. The literature provides substantial evidence for the efficacy of DE – students who participate are more likely to enroll in college, persist to a second year, and complete a degree. Yet, restrictive academic eligibility requirements keep many students out of DE programs, and the participation patterns of students across race, gender, and class demonstrate the perpetuation of historical inequities in the distribution of educational resources. The current study investigates one DE program that has attempted to increase access to enrollment and success by removing eligibility requirement at the postsecondary, programmatic level and implementing unique course structures. Using descriptive analysis tools and inferential statistics, I examined the participation patterns of students across districts and campuses to understand how students from historically excluded backgrounds accessed a DE program with an open-enrollment policy. Findings suggest that there is better representation of some groups of historically excluded students, but others remain underrepresented. Further, while districts are relatively uniform in their representation of historically excluded students, there is considerable variation among campuses. District- and campus-level factors such as socioeconomic status and average prior academic performance of students are significant predictors of the representation of historically excluded students. Situating these results within relevant theoretical frameworks about structures and justice, I conclude that a single policy solution such as an open-enrollment policy is unlikely to disrupt an educational structure that has been in place for over a century. Additional work is necessary to evolve the schemas of educational leaders at all levels and promote the equitable redistribution of educational resources.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Andrew Butler

Committee Members

Rowhea Elmesky, Michelle Purdy, Michael Strube, Cristina Zepeda,

Available for download on Wednesday, April 24, 2024