By Cecilia Cunningham, Director, Middle College National Consortium
New York State, like many other states, is looking for ways to fund tuition for early college students. Statistics from the New York state MCNC early colleges demonstrate that they are serving 78% of students that are eligible for free and reduced lunch and 90% children of color. If the state provides support by using existing Tuition Assistance Program funds for students in early colleges, all of our schools would be eligible for these resources. Since our early college students are not matriculated, the resources would be available to the schools directly. Currently the MCNC early colleges use a variety of funding sources including the per pupil allotment, CUNY waivers, and college and high school resources. This funding stream is very important to the long-term sustainability of early colleges.
Some states are using monies designed for scholarships for underserved students such as the Hope Scholarship in Georgia. Like New York, the Georgia Hope Scholarship was in existence before the opening of early colleges and the funding was extended to early colleges. While these attempts to expand access to existing pools of money are very important, there is a high probability that these pools of money will not be given significant additional resources to fund all eligible students.
With 38% of MCNC early college students in New York State graduating with 20 or more college credits and 61% graduating with 12 or more credits, students are demonstrating both the capacity and the desire to work hard and be college ready. If the demand increases for dual enrollment for all students it might be time that we look at the way we are currently funding high school. Should the money follow the students to either internships sites or college? What kind of support must the schools provide for the students to make good use of the opportunities beyond the high school walls? In Middle Colleges, we have defined both the level and kind of support needed but not attached a cost to it. We are sure that students are hungry for challenging opportunities outside of the high school classroom.