Early College Initiative

In 2002, MCNC was one of the intermediary organizations selected by the Gates Foundation to create small Early College high schools aimed at increasing college access for traditionally undeserved students. Supported by the Gates Foundation and building on MCNC’s existing network of member Middle College schools, MCNC oversaw the redesign and development of 20 Early College schools through the Early College Initiative. Over the years, Early College Initiative evaluation studies and research conducted by the American Institutes of Research (AIR) have found that:

  • Early College students earned an average of 23 college credits upon graduating from high school, and 88% enrolled in college in the immediate fall (AIR, 2009).
  • Early College students were more likely to enroll in college and earn a college degree than their non-Early College peers (AIR, 2014).
  • Although Early Colleges may cost about $3,800 more per student, the estimated return on investment was about $33,709 per student (AIR, 2019).

Read more about AIR’s Evaluation on the Impact of Early College High Schools.

MCNC Continuous Improvement Data Project

To effectively support the development of the Middle and Early Colleges that the MCNC redesigned and created through the Early College Initiative, the MCNC partnered with the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University to implement a continuous improvement approach to data collection and use. Through the MCNC Data Project, NCREST worked with 15-20 MCNC schools each year for over 10 years to better understand the designs and features of MCNC schools, college course-taking patterns and outcomes, and student perspectives on their overall Early College experience. Highlights from the MCNC Data Project indicate that:

  • MCNC students earn a substantial number of college credits during high school.
  • MCNC students are successful in their college courses.
  • MCNC students earn most of their college credits in the Social Science, English, Math, and Science subject areas.
  • MCNC graduating students report high levels of college readiness.


See more about MCNC Data Project students served and college course-taking outcomes.

Read more about NCREST’s MCNC Middle and Early College Research Partnership.

STEM Early College Expansion Partnership

In 2014, MCNC partnered with Jobs for the Future (JFF) and the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University to create high school to college STEM pathways by enhancing STEM instruction and college course-taking for high school students in four Michigan intermediate school districts and schools in the Bridgeport, Connecticut district. Supported by a 5-year U.S. Department of Education’s Investing In Innovation (i3) grant, the MCNC collaborated with its affiliate member organization, the Michigan Early Middle College Association (MEMCA), to expand STEM readiness and Early College opportunities in Michigan. SECEP Michigan highlights from the final evaluation conducted by the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found that:

  • SECEP schools outpaced comparison schools in expanding access to college credit courses.
  • Students were more likely to earn college credit through dual enrollment than Advanced Placement courses.
  • Schools made changes relative to college-going culture and instruction.


Read more about SERVE’s Impact Evaluation of the STEM Early College Expansion Partnership (SECEP).

College in the High School Alliance

In 2017, the MCNC joined forces with Bard College, Jobs For the Future, KnowledgeWorks, and the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships to advocate for policies that promote effective dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high schools.

Read more about CHSA’s summary of Evidence of Success on Early College Designs and Dual Enrollment.