The Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI) was established in 2002 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The explicit goal of the initiative was to increase the opportunity for students who are disadvantaged to earn a postsecondary credential. To achieve this goal, Early Colleges (ECs) partner with colleges and universities to offer students an opportunity to earn an associate’s degree or up to two years of college credits toward a bachelor’s degree during high school at no or low cost to their families. ECs also provide a rigorous and supportive high school environment to help students navigate and succeed in college coursework. Since 2002, more than 280 ECs have opened nationwide as part of the ECHSI, serving more than 80,000 students in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
In partnership with SRI International, AIR evaluated the ECHSI using qualitative and quantitative data sources to document and describe the implementation of this initiative and the performance of students, particularly in comparison to other students. Between 2010 and 2013, AIR conducted an impact study of ECs based on a randomized controlled trial, which found that being offered admission to an EC had positive impacts on both college enrollment and degree attainment 2–4 years after expected high school graduation.
Building on the original EC impact study, AIR conducted an efficacy follow-up study between 2016 and 2019 to assess longer-term impacts of ECs with the support of a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. The follow-up study found that the significant EC impacts on students’ college enrollment and degree attainment outcomes observed in the original impact study persisted through six years after expected high school graduation.