Taking Early College to the Next Level

Published oct. 11, 2013

It is the question in education today: How do we dramatically increase the number of high-need students who graduate high school with the tools they need to succeed in college and family-supporting careers? Or, put a more personal way, how do we support a 6th or 9th grader living in poverty—who may typically be at risk of not finishing high school or graduating college-ready—and prepare him to not only finish high school, but to start postsecondary education and earn a degree?

More and more, educators and parents agree: The answer is early college.

Where other reform efforts have fallen short, early college high schools are changing the lives of thousands of low-income and racial minority students around the country. The first generation of early colleges are small schools, often located on college campuses that combine high school and college coursework with intensive, individualized supports. Embracing acceleration instead of remediation, early colleges motivate students to boost their skills and stretch themselves in more interesting, challenging courses. Students start taking college courses as early as 9th or 10th grade and can earn an Associate’s degree or significant college credit along with their high school diploma—all free of charge.

The numbers tell a big part of the story:

  • More than 93% of early college students graduate from high school and earn significant college credit along with their diploma.
  • 23% of early college students earn an Associate’s degree or two years of college credit along with their diploma.
  • 76% of early college students enroll in college immediately after high school and the vast majority return for a second year, far surpassing the national rates for low-income students.

But there is much more to the early college success story. Jobs for the Future has created nearly 250 early colleges with our partners since 2002. Now we are aiming to expand our impact—and change the lives of tens of thousands more students—by working with school districts and education organizations to extend the proven early college practices to many more students in a wider range of school settings in high-need areas around the country.

Hear the rest of the early college story and learn how to start an early college high school in your district from those who have done it themselves. Come to the National Early College Conference, Oct. 29-30, at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Join me and hundreds of local educators and district leaders who have created and are running successful early colleges from North Carolina to South Texas to Denver. Discounts are available for small groups.

See you October 29!

Photograph courtesy Early College High School California Academy for Liberal Studies, 2004