How We Can Improve College-Completion Rates

To the Editor:

The article “This Is Not a Good Time to Fall Off the College Track. Students Are Doing It Anyway” (March 8, 2021) shows the inadequacies of the many add-on programs in schools designed to increase minority and low-income students’ applications for college but fail to organize for college readiness at their core.

There is an alternative to these add-on programs: early- and middle-college high schools. These schools have automatic college acceptance and FAFSA completion as part of their process when students begin their college courses. These processes are guided by early- and middle-college counselors and teachers who interact with students daily.

Early- and middle-college high schools place college readiness at the center of their mission and integrate multiple college-going supports into students’ experiences throughout their four years. This includes having students take classes for college credit while in high school to help lead them to a degree or credential with no extra cost. These schools commit to serving students from low-income families and underrepresented backgrounds in higher education.

As the founding principal of one such high school in Buffalo, N.Y., I can report a 96 percent high school graduation rate for the class of 2020. The graduating students earn an average of 45 college credits at their partner colleges. The pandemic did not divert them from their academic course or from completing the necessary college applications and financial-aid forms. The design principles of the early- and middle-college model protect the most vulnerable students from disruptions such as the current pandemic. It would be wise for more districts to adopt this model for their students.

Susan M. Doyle
Founding Principal
Middle Early College High School
Buffalo, N.Y.