There are many benefits to obtaining a degree, but not everyone has an equal opportunity in furthering their tertiary studies. Early colleges were created, in part, to increase the opportunity for disadvantaged students to earn a postsecondary credential.
They partner with colleges and universities to offer high school students a chance to earn an associate’s degree or up to two years of college credits toward a bachelor’s degree at no cost, or at a lower cost to their counterparts.
Research has shown that degree holders typically earn more on average than non-degree holders, and are less likely to be unemployed. This further necessitates the importance of students completing high school and continuing with their tertiary studies.
Benefits of early college programmes
New research suggests that student participation in early college programmes can have positive long-term effects on students’ post-secondary outcomes.
The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has found that “early college students were more likely to enrol in and graduate from two-year colleges, which may partly be because most of the early colleges in our study were partnered with two-year colleges.”
They also found that early college students were more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree and do so earlier in their academic careers, despite not being more likely than their peers to enrol in four-year colleges.
Early college impacts on college enrolment and degree completion outcomes did not differ significantly by gender, race/ethnicity or eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches.
AIR researchers used data from the National Student Clearinghouse, and looked at 2,458 students in 10 early college programmes. Such programmes enrol students via a lottery process. Out of this sample, 1,044 won the EC lottery and 1,414 did not (i.e. control students).
“Because early college students were more likely to complete college degrees earlier than their peers, we anticipate positive long-term early college impacts on students’ workforce and financial outcomes,” said the report.
“While more research is needed to explore the early college impacts on later-life outcomes, the accelerated timeline of degree attainment for early college students combined with the fact that college credits earned at early colleges come at little or no cost to them suggest that early college students may accrue less educational debt in their lives.
“Moreover, as early college students are likely to enter the workforce sooner, we expect that they will have higher lifetime earnings compared with their peers.”
AIR’s findings highlight the benefits of integrating college coursework into the high school curriculum for the academic trajectory of high schoolers.