Early College, Early Success: Early College High School Initiative Impact Study
This study is the capstone project of AIR and its partner, SRI International, who for more than a decade have explored the impact of the Early College High School Initiative, launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2002. The Initiative provided funds for the development of Early College High Schools (“Early Colleges”) to give students who are traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education the opportunity to enroll in college courses and receive credit while pursuing a high school diploma. The goal is to better prepare these students for college and career success.
The randomized controlled trial design allowed researchers to provide strong evidence to answer the study’s two questions:
- Do Early College students have better outcomes than they would have had at other high schools?
- Does the impact of Early Colleges vary by student background characteristics (e.g., gender and family income)?
Key findings include:
- Early College students were significantly more like to graduate from high school than comparison students. Eighty-six percent of Early College students graduated from high school and 81 percent of comparison students graduated from high school.
- Early College students were significantly more likely to enroll in college than comparison students. During the study period, 80 percent of Early College students enrolled, compared with 71 percent for comparison students. Early College students were also more likely than comparison students to enroll in both two-year and in four-year colleges or universities.
- Early College students were significantly more likely to earn a college degree than comparison students. Up to one year past high school, 21 percent of Early College students earned a college degree (typically, an associate’s degree), compared to only 1 percent for comparison students. Because they start earning college credits in high school, Early College students should complete college degrees earlier than comparison students.
- The impact of Early College on high school graduation and college enrollment did not differ significantly based on gender, race/ethnicity, family income, first-generation college-going status, or pre-high school achievement. The impact on earning a college degree was stronger for female, minority and lower income students than for their counterparts.
The findings provide strong evidence for the positive impact of Early Colleges on students. Early College students had a greater opportunity than their peers to enroll in and graduate from college. They also appeared to be on a different academic trajectory, with Early College students earning college degrees and enrolling in four-year institutions at higher rates than comparison students. In addition, Early Colleges appeared to mitigate the traditional educational attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
The ten Early Colleges examined used admissions lotteries for the academic years 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08. The overall study sample included 2,458 students. The primary student outcomes for the study were high school graduation, college enrollment, and college degree attainment. Data came from administrative records from schools, districts, and states; the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC); and a survey administered to students. Due to privacy concerns, the Early Colleges are not identified in the study.
September 2013 Update: The report was originally released in June 2013. This version was updated in September 2013 to include additional details about sub-group analyses, including updates to Exhibit E.5.