Early College Alum
The most recent long-term study released in June 2013 finds that Early College High Schools have had a sustained positive impact on traditionally underserved students nationwide. Reports published by AIR(American Institute for Research) and SRI International point to the unequivocal success of Early College High Schools. The study conducted by Andrea Berger (Project Director), Lori Turk-Bicakci (Deputy Project Director), Michael Garet (Principal Investigator), Mengli Song, Joal Knudson, Clarisse Haxton, Kristina Zeiser, Gur Hoshen, Jennifer Ford, Jennifer Stephan and Kaeli Keating and Lauren Cassidy of SRI, found strong evidence to answer the study’s two questions:
1. Do Early College students have better outcomes than they would have had at other high schools?
2. Does the impact of Early Colleges vary by student background characteristics (e.g., gender and family income)?
The study compared outcomes for students from 10 ECHS (Early College High School) where admission was conducted by lottery with similar schools in the districts where students did not have access to structured, tuition free college courses and academic support. Students in non-ECHS institutions had participated in the lotteries, but had not been accepted into the ECHS programs. The study included 2,458 students in five states. It assessed both quantitative data (2004-2012) and qualitative data, obtained from student and grantee interviews. The latter included only 1,294 Early College students. Subjects were approximately ½ female, ½ low-income, ½ minority and 1/3 first generation college attendees.
Early College High Schools were initiated by funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2002, for development of Early Colleges to give students traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education the opportunity to enroll in college courses and receive credit while pursuing a high school diploma.
“My time at (the Early College) has prepared me for schoolwork at a higher level because I was basically performing the same level of work throughout high school. The environment pushed me to take every opportunity offered to me…I am a better student for having attended (EC).” -Early College Alum
Early Colleges are structured around core principles which have demonstrated success in challenging assumptions about age and academic experience necessary for high quality performance. These are:
• A commitment to serving students underrepresented in higher education
• Created and sustained by a local education agency, a higher education institution and the community, all of whom are jointly accountable for student success.
• Schools and their higher education partners and community jointly develop an integrated academic program so that all students earn one to two years of transferable college credit leading to college completion.
• EC schools engage all students in a comprehensive support system that develops academic and social skills as well as the behaviors and conditions necessary for college completion.
• EC schools and their higher education and community partners work with intermediaries to create conditions and advocate for supportive policies that advance the early college partners.
“[The Early College] allowed me to receive my associate’s degree nearly for free. Without [the Early College] I would not have my competitive edge that I have now at [college]; and I wouldn’t have the same confidence, college smarts, or goals.”
-Early College Alum
The 10 year AIR/SRI Study confirmed the success of these programs. The study found that EC students were more likely to graduate from high school than comparison students. 86% of incoming cohort from EC schools graduated on time, vs 81% from the comparison schools. In addition EC students had higher English language arts assessment scores than the comparison group.
EC students were more likely (63%) to enroll in college during their high school career than comparison students (23%). One year after graduation the majority of both groups 77% (EC) vs 67% (Comp) were enrolled in college. EC Students and graduates were more likely to enroll in both two and four year colleges than their comparison peers (59% vs 38% in 2 year colleges and 54% vs 47% in four year colleges).
Finally EC students were more likely to earn a college degree than comparison students. By the end of high school, the study found 20% of EC students had earned an A.A. degree as opposed to 1% of the comparison group. At the end of the first year after high school 21% of EC students had earned a degree, while comparison students earning a degree remained 1%.
The study found that EC impacts on high school graduation and college enrollment were similar regardless of gender, race/ethnicity, family income, achievement before high school and whether they were first generation in family to attend college. Surveys and interviews demonstrated higher ratings among EC students than comparison groups regarding:
• Academic rigor
• College-going culture
• Level of instructor support
• Quality of support completing college and financial aid applications.
This summary was adapted from the complete 2013 report, Early College, Early Success: Early College High School Initiative Impact Study, available at http://www.air.org/earlycollegeimpact. Inquiries about the evaluation may be sent to Andrea Berger at aberger (at) air.org
For more information about the Early College High School Initiative, visit