Early College, Continued Success: Longer-Term Impact of Early College High Schools

Mengli Song, Kristina L. Zeiser, Drew Atchison, and Iliana Brodziak de los Reyes

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What are Early College High Schools?

Early Colleges are small high schools designed to increase the opportunity for students–particularly students traditionally underrepresented in higher education­–to earn a postsecondary credential. To achieve this goal, they partner with colleges and universities to provide high school students with college experience with the expectation that all students will earn an associate’s degree or up to 2 years of college credits during high school at no or low-cost to their families. Early Colleges also provide a rigorous and supportive high school environment to help students navigate and succeed in college coursework.

How did we assess the longer-term impacts of Early Colleges?

This study is a randomized controlled trial based on retrospective admissions lotteries. The sample included 2,458 students who applied for enrollment in 10 Early Colleges between 2005–06 and 2007–08. Of those students, 1,044 were randomly selected for admission to the 10 Early Colleges (Early College students) and the remaining 1,414 were not offered admission (control students). We followed all students in the study sample for 6 years after their expected high school graduation and compared the postsecondary outcomes between Early College students and control students, drawing on college enrollment and degree completion data collected through the Studenttracker Service provided by the National Student Clearinghouse.

What did we find?

We found that Early Colleges had substantial positive impact on both college enrollment and degree completion each year between the fourth year of high school and 6 years after expected high school graduation. (See the bar chart below for degree completion rates by the end of 6 years after expected high school graduation for each study group.) In addition, we found Early College students completed college degrees earlier and faster than control students, which bodes well for their future labor market outcomes.

Notes. Results are taken from Figure 3 in the full article.

For further information about the study and its findings, visit here.

Full article citation:
Song, M., Zeiser, K. L., Atchison, D., & Brodziak de los Reyes, I. (2021). Early College, continued success: Longer-term impact of Early College high schools. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness. DOI: 

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