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‘Early-college’ high schools lose funding

Some early-college programs have closed for lack of funding, reports Education Week. The Gates Foundation began funding early college high schools in 2002, creating a network of 214 programs  coordinated by Jobs for the Future. Another 100 programs operate outside that network.

Those early colleges target groups underrepresented in higher education—such as African-Americans, Latinos, low-income students, and those who are the first in their families to attend college—by offering a shorter, less expensive, and highly supportive route to earning a college degree.

Most of the $107 million Gates Foundation grant has been spent and the foundation has shifted its focus to other education projects, Ed Week reports. Without state or local funding, it’s hard for programs to survive.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, two such schools have closed in Georgia, and a District of Columbia high school greatly scaled back its school-within-a-school early-college program. In Ohio, Youngstown State University is transferring responsibility for an early-college high school on its campus to the nearby Eastern Gateway Community College because it can no longer afford to sponsor it.

Financial sustainability “varies dramatically, based on local policies, on how much local funding there is, or how much they’ve been able to supplement it,” said Andrea R. Berger, the project director for a national evaluation of early colleges commissioned by the Gates Foundation.

Early-college participants in the Jobs for the Future network take college classes for free. Some states pay the tuition costs, but others do not.

Two large-scale randomized studies compare students who won a lottery to attend early-college high schools to those who applied but lost the lottery.

A national study by the American Institutes for Research has found positive results.

. . . proficiency rates on standardized tests are higher for early-college participants than for the control-group students in the same school districts. Attendance rates and four-year high school graduation rates are also higher for the early-college students.

In a North Carolina study, ninth and 10th graders in early-college programs are more likely to take and succeed in college courses; more are staying in school.