MCNC Middle-Early Colleges – A Few FAQs

Middle-Early Colleges (M-ECs) are small schools where students enroll in high school and college classes, and graduate with both a high school diploma and 1-2 years worth of transferable college credits. The Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) is an intermediary organization that develops M-ECs, a sub-group of its Middle College High Schools.

Written By: Elisabeth Barnett and Kristen Bucceri, National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST)

During the 2009-2010 school year, there were 20 Middle-Early Colleges in the MCNC nationwide, out of 34 MCNC member schools in total. Of these, 18 responded to the annual survey of Early Colleges administered by Jobs for the Future. Their answers were compiled by NCREST – and they paint an interesting picture of the practices and features of MCNC Middle-Early Colleges.

What students do Middle-Early Colleges serve?


The students in M-ECs are 80% non-white and 67% qualify for free or reduced lunch. Fifty-six percent are girls and 10% have limited English proficiency (LEP). Although two schools admit students strictly by lottery, the rest indicated that they use a variety of admissions criteria in student selection. In the survey, schools were asked whether they “consider” or “prefer” candidates based on different social and academic criteria. Table 1 shows the percent of schools that use each of these criteria when deciding whether to admit students. Schools also revealed that they receive lots of applications. Of those who applied in 2009, only about a quarter (27%) were admitted.



Do all Middle-Early Colleges look the same?

The answer is no.  While 56% of M-ECs have a liberal arts theme, a number of schools focus on a specific career field.  Seventeen percent of schools concentrate on math, science, and technology while six percent of schools focus on teacher preparation. Some M-ECs target a specific student population.  For example, 11% of schools have ESL/bilingual themes, meaning that they specifically target English Language Learners.  One school focuses on dropout recovery while another works with recent immigrant students.


Do all M-ECs offer the same program? 

Once again the answer is no.  Although the M-EC model provides for some common components across schools, these schools have considerable freedom to design a program that fits the needs of their specific state, community, and student population. For example, while all M-ECs stress student support and provide tutoring for students, the features of the tutoring program vary from school to school.   One goal that all schools have in common in their tutoring programs is an increase in math skills.  Most schools’ tutoring programs also provide support for other academic subject development (92% of schools), literacy skills development (82%), high school exam preparation (82%), and support with college classes (76%).


What opportunities do students have to take college courses?

Among the M-ECs, 74% of 10th grade students are enrolled in college classes, while 98% of 12th graders were taking college classes. Table 2 shows the extent to which students have opportunities to take college courses and the average credits that they had earned by the time of graduation. All M-ECs offered college courses taught by regular college professors. In addition, 44% had high school teachers offering some of their college courses and 11% offered classes co-taught by both a college and high school instructor.


For more information on Middle-Early Colleges, please keep your eye on the MCNC website ( where NCREST reports are regularly posted.