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High School and College: A Perfect Union

High School and College: A Perfect Union

“High school and college have been working so well together in our county, we wanted them to get married.” So quipped Dr. Austin Obasahan, Superintendent of Duplin County (NC) Schools to D.C. policymakers last Wednesday.

But can high school and college really come together in a successful union for high school students? Data show a resounding “yes.”

Early college high school designs and dual and concurrent enrollment courses have been growing fast as college readiness, access, and completion strategies nationwide, particularly for minority and low-income youth, the latest National Center for Education Statistics data show. And they have an impressive track record.

Last week, JFF, the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP) and Bard College hosted a Congressional briefing in Washington to explore early college and dual and concurrent enrollment strategies that help students gain momentum to college completion. (Read our federal policy recommendations.)

Panelists from Hawkeye Community College in Iowa, Duplin County Schools in North Carolina, and Bard College in New York presented on their unique and successful dual and concurrent enrollment and early college strategies to ensure that more students graduate and complete postsecondary coursework while still in high school, saving them time and money towards completing a postsecondary credential. The result

It’s particularly exciting to see these schools’ students achieving college readiness with students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds in both urban and rural settings.

Joel Vargas, JFF’s Vice President for High School through College, made clear that early college designs are not only dropout prevention and student engagement strategies; they are also college access, momentum, and completion strategies that can make earning a credential more efficient for students, and more efficient for the system. Across the 246 early college high schools that partner with JFF, high school graduation rates average 93 percent, compared to the national rate of 78 percent. And early college graduates are more likely to enroll in college and complete postsecondary credentials than their peers.

The real question now is: Why shouldn't all students have these opportunities?

More information: Read a study of 30,000+ Texas high school students finding that dual enrollment helps increase students' chances of attending and completing college.

Photograph courtesy of Metro Early College High School, 2011

(Updated Monday, April 15, 2013)