Early college needs to be free

Early college programs will be cost-free for students as part of Pathways to College grants in the Harkin-Enzi bill, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Sen. Harkin’s HELP  Committee approved an amendment ensuring that, but didn’t seem to understand the early college concept, writes Mary Nguyen on The Quick and the Ed.

Early colleges are small high schools, usually less than 100 students per grade, that partner with one or more higher education institutions to blend high school and college-level work into a 4- or 5- year curriculum.  The goal is for students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and up to two years of postsecondary credits tuition-free (as we’ll see, this isn’t always the case). Think of it as dual enrollment on steroids – rather than allowing a handful of students to take an individual course at a local college, the high school and college work together so that an entire cohort of high school students has access to college-level courses that apply towards their high school diploma and a postsecondary degree.

Most partner with a community college.  Students may take  classes at the college campus or at their own high school.

Early colleges aren’t AP or IB courses or dual enrollment, Nguyen adds.  The model isn’t designed just for advanced students. The goal is to motivate  the sort of students who often don’t make it to college.

. . .  an evaluation found that in early college high schools, the predicted on-time graduation rate for 9th graders was 14 percent higher than the district as a whole.  

In some states — Alabama, New York and South Carolina — early college students must pay tuition. In others, students have to pay for their college textbooks, potentially pricing out low-income students.  Federal grants must ensure that all students have equal access to the early college opportunity, Nguyen argues.