Written By: Jennifer Kim, National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching ( NCREST)
As our school communities fine tune priorities for this school year, these student perspectives about colleges from the past three MCNC Early Colleges will motivate and challenge schools to continue and improve their student supports for college readiness.
As the goal of Early College is to provide high school students with an early start to enrolling in college classes, data over time have shown that MCNC Early College students earn a significant number of college credits and are successful in their coursework. Focus group interviews with more than 100 students across the MCNC Early College schools indicate that students and teachers alike are vested in related academic and social supports. However, it is the student that gives voice to student perspectives about high school and college.
The Middle College National Consortium Graduating Student Survey has been administered annually in April, to Early College students in their final year of high school. This article will highlight some key aspects tied to college readiness. Data will be shown for the past three graduating classes, showing the trends, more consistent than not, over time.
The demographic profile of graduating students at MCNC Early Colleges has been mostly consistent over the past three years. The set of figures below show that the overwhelming majority of students have been non-white, tended to be more female than male, and a little over half were on free/reduced lunch. Overall demographic data representing students from grade levels across the MCNC Early Colleges reflect similar patterns.
While almost all of the students want to complete college, not all of them think they can. More than 90% of the students over the past few years indicate “wanting” to achieve a college level education or higher, yet a slightly lower percentage of students “think” they will be able to do so. This is not necessarily surprising as many students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, face various postsecondary education obstacles. However, this gap decreased over the past three years, so that for the most recent year, there was only a one percent difference.
An overwhelming high percent of graduating students consistently report feeling college ready. On average, more than 90% of the students each year voiced that they had a clear understanding of what college would be like, and the same percent of students could also easily imagine themselves as a college student. A similar high percent of students felt confident about handling their coursework on their own. Interestingly, in separate interviews with MCNC Early College teachers, some voiced the concern over whether students would feel independent enough once they left the school since they had been accustomed to high degree of support system during high school. This should quell the concern of “too much support.”
While students may want to achieve a college education and also feel college ready, they must do some planning and required steps ahead of time in order to continue with college after high school. Over 80% of the graduating students consistently reported completing a college application, while over 70% indicated they had filled out financial aid forms for college. While these percentages are for the most part high, there is about a 10% gap between students completing a college application and financial aid forms. In addition, a similar high percent of students indicated they had received help with these things from their school.
Many of the students make plans to continue enrolling in classes at the partnering college and report being accepted at a college for the upcoming school year. A majority of the Early College students have enrolled in many college classes during high school and earned a significant number of college credits at the partnering college. Several students have also earned their Associate’s Degree upon high school graduation. However, while many students have been accepted at a college or made plans to continue on at the partnering institutions, they had yet to figure out how they would pay for this.
The overwhelming majority of MCNC Early College students aspire to complete a college level education and express being ready for college. Financing college continues to be a concern for students, but the majority of graduating students have taken the necessary steps to be in a strong position to continue their college coursework already begun in high school, on into college. Reviewing the Consortium-wide data, in conjunction with schools’ individual reports, can serve as a discussion starting point about college readiness and student support priorities for this school year.