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Early-College High School Experience Linked to College Enrollment

A new multiyear study of students who attended 10 early-college high schools found they were significantly more likely to finish high school and enroll in college compared with their peers.

The study by the American Institutes for Research focused on schools that were in the Early College High School Initiative, which was created in 2002 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At these schools, students can earn college credit, sometimes graduating with a high school diploma along with an associate degree, usually without paying any tuition.

Of the students admitted through a lottery to an early-college high school, 86 percent graduated from high school compared with 81 percent who were not admitted. About 80 percent of early-college high school students enrolled in college while just 71 percent of their peers pursued higher education, the study found.

As early-college high school students amass college credits while in high school, they are much more likely to earn a college degree within two years than comparison students. Among the oldest cohort followed two years past high school graduation, 20 percent of early-college students earned a college degree—usually, an associate degree—while 2 percent of comparison students did. Those who were more likely to earn a college degree from early-college high schools were female and minority and lower-income students, the report notes.

Eventually, AIR plans to follow students four years past graduation to see if their early college-high school experience translates into higher bachelor-degree completion rates.

This study analyzed nearly 2,500 students who participated in admissions lotteries in 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08. The schools were located in urban and suburban areas in five different states.

Since the Gates initiative's launch, 240 early-college high schools have opened across the county. The Boston-based organization Jobs for the Future works as the coordinating intermediary for the initiative.

Earlier research has indicated allowing students to take even one college-level class in high school can significantly increase their chances of going to and completing college.

(The Gates Foundation also underwrites coverage of industry and innovation in Education Week.)

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