Virginia Dual Enrollment Policy as the Transformation of Intentions: A Multiple Case Study

Renshaw, Andrew, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Heinecke, Walter, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Once a privilege of the few, American colleges and universities now serve millions of students each year. One of the most pressing trends accompanying expanded access is the rising cost of this higher education. As more students are educated at greater costs, the total financial burden, shared by institutions and private individuals alike, becomes more oppressive. One way that states have already begun to address funding issues within public higher education is to help students begin their post-secondary education while still in high school. In design and theory, dual enrollment programs provide students with the opportunity to earn high school and college credits simultaneously while also reducing the total education expenditures for which a state would otherwise be responsible. This trend is illustrated in the growth of dual enrollment program in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which offers dual enrollment through the state community college system.

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to elucidate the process by the statewide dual enrollment policy was developed and enacted in Virginia by state policymakers and to examine the transformation of intentions that led to the policy action. Additionally, this study was designed to determine the level at which those original policy intentions are apparent in the implementation of the policy at the local level, and whether or not significant unintended consequences have manifested. This study explored both the creation and implementation of the dual enrollment policy in Virginia, specifically tracing the policy aims and values as they were interpreted and acted upon at various levels within the state education bureaucracy. The case study consisted of two levels, the first focused on the dual enrollment policy-makers and the second on the implementation sites for dual enrollment, community colleges and high schools. Both document analysis and interview data was collected from both levels of the study. The data generated was analyzed using Hall’s Transformation of Intentions model (1997) and the dual enrollment policy process was uncovered and described in relation to it.

The findings of this study indicated that dual enrollment policy in Virginia was transformed in terms of the values and intentions in a number ways across the entire system and across time. Initial policy values of efficiency and choice interacted with the value of equity that was introduced at the implementation sites. These values were then augmented by the more recent addition of quality as an intention of dual enrollment policy. The consequences of this interplay of values were seen in the interests that persisted at the implementation level, including program funding and affordability, student access and opportunities, and the maintenance of local interests. The results of this study also provided a needed framework upon which a thorough examination of new dual enrollment policies and practices in Virginia can be made. Finally this study contributed to the broader literature on qualitative, interpretive policy study, specifically helping to frame policy and policy formation as the transformation of intentions.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: