Early College Week Celebrates a Triumphant Past and Bright Future

Published apr. 23, 2018

JFF and our partners are celebrating the remarkable success we've seen—and the promising future we anticipate—from implementing early college experiences by observing the annual Early College Week.

I think it's a cause well worth commemorating.

When I joined JFF in 2002, I was fresh from completing my dissertation about the need for fundamental changes in the design of U.S. high schools to prepare more low-income youth for college. JFF and its partners were just launching the Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI), which started or redesigned hundreds of schools to help underserved students graduate high school while earning up to two years of college credit or an associate’s degree.

This audacious idea—removing the academic, social, and financial barriers between high school and college for students who traditionally struggle to overcome them—excited me. It felt like fitting work that would put my graduate school theories into practice. And as we mark over 15 years since that heartening beginning, I am astonished by the momentum the early college movement has gained.

  • Thanks to the 280 early college schools started by our ECHSI partners, more than 80,000 students each year graduate high school at higher rates than their peers, and over 30 percent do so with associate’s degrees
  • Rigorous research confirms that early college schools positively impact high school graduation, college enrollment, and college completion, particularly for students from groups with traditionally lower educational attainment. 
  • Education policymakers are championing early college experiences, increasingly advocating for more schools and colleges to make them available to more students. With the encouragement of the Every Student Succeeds Act, nearly all states’ accountability systems recognize high schools whose students also complete college courses. Several higher education systems even reward colleges in performance-based funding formulas for improving success rates by working with high school students.
  • Many more students are getting access to early college experiences as the original design is adapted to high school-to-postsecondary pathways in career and technical education, dual enrollment programs, and schools focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

 JFF remains committed to scaling up these approaches. As proof, just look at our co-leadership of the multi-state, multi-region Pathways to Prosperity network with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. We have also documented our work with partners to help a number of school districts make early college a prime improvement strategy for all of their schools.

new video showcases JFF’s stellar work with partners Educate Texas, Denver Public Schools, Brownsville Independent School District, and Pharr-San Juan Alamo Independent School District, and an additional 30,000 students have accessed early college designs over the past five years as a result.

Luckily, we are not alone. This work is just one part of a growing movement in education to expand and strengthen schools using the early college design and improving the educational and economic prospects of young people.

 To every supporter of this worthy cause: JFF applauds your hard work and commitment and invites you to celebrate with by spreading the word about your early college high schools. You can find new resources at www.jff.org/ecweek. We are proud to be partners in this important endeavor with you!