New research confirms that getting a head start earning college credit in high school pays off.
The multi-year study finds that students in early-college high schools were much more likely to enroll in and complete college than their peers in traditional high schools. The research examined schools that are part of the Early-College High School Initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (The Gates Foundation also supports Education Week coverage of the education industry and K-12 innovation.)
Nearly 25 percent of graduates from early-college high schools earned a college degree (typically an associate degree) two years after graduation, compared with 5 percent of their peers in regular high schools, according to the latest report, issued Dec. 15 by the American Institutes for Research. Overall, AIR reports that 81 percent of early-college high school students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of students in a control group who did not attend early-college high schools.
Although the researchers found that being admitted to an early-college high school had a positive effect on attending a two-year college, it had no apparent benefit in terms of attending a four-year institution. The authors noted that students in the study were between two and four years out of high school, so many would not have had time yet to complete a bachelor’s degrees.
With the early-college high school model, students can earn up to two years of college credit or an associate’s degree through partnerships with nearby colleges and universities. The Gates initiative, which now includes 240 early-college high schools, started in 2002. It was designed to improve educational opportunities for underserved students. The hope was that by engaging students in a rigorous high school curriculum tied to earning college credit, that those students would be more motivated to attend college.
This latest report updates findings from last June and is based on an additional year of postsecondary data for students who were in 9th grade during the academic years 2005 through 2008. Earlier evaluations only looked at students one year past high school graduation. The overall study sample included 2,458 students, analyzed through last summer and covering as far as four years past high school for the oldest students.
The authors say that although the study’s findings are applicable only to the 10 early-college high schools included in the study sample, they provide strong evidence for the benefits of such offerings.
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