The Impact of Early Colleges: What does the research say?

Liz Bell, writing for EdNC recently explored the evidence basis for early college high schools. Excerpts of the piece appear below:

The SERVE Center and researchers from RTI International and RAND Corporation have found early college students are more likely to attend class, complete courses that prepare them to enter into a university, and graduate high school. They have fewer suspensions, earn more college credits while in high school, and are more likely to enroll in a postsecondary institution and attain a postsecondary credential.

Early colleges create environments for students who might not otherwise go to college and provide rigor and support. They also speed up school, giving students the opportunity to earn two years of college credit or an associate degree for free while in high school.

When looking at the number of college credits earned in high school, early college students had more. For the control group of students attending regular high school, this took into account courses earned through dual enrollment and AP (advanced placement) courses, which give students college credit upon passing a final exam. Specific subgroups of early college students also earned more college credits than their counterparts at traditional public high schools, including minorities, first-generation college-goers, economically disadvantaged students, and students who were underprepared in ninth grade.

The research team also found early college makes a difference when it comes to enrollment in postsecondary education. Though this might seem obvious — early college students must at least enroll in a two-year university — the study waited two years after high school graduation to give students from regular high schools a chance to enroll. Looking at enrollment in a four-year institution after college, early college students are still more likely to enroll than students at traditional public high schools. Researchers also found early college has a slightly positive but not statistically significant impact on students’ GPA while in college.

The same positive impact is true for attainment of a postsecondary credential, either while in high school or afterwards. Early college students were found more likely to attain an associate degree and a Bachelor’s degree than those who attended regular high school courses only.

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