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UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM: Early College High Schools Show Potential for Increasing Minority Student College Participation

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“Half of our students would be the first in their families to ever attend college. This is about more than improving students’ college and career success. It’s about changing families’ and communities’ view on college and how obtainable that education can be.”

Early college high schools have potential for increasing college participation among student groups that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education, according to a new report from Jobs for the Future (JFF). The study finds that even though these schools largely serve low-income and minority students, 73 percent of the graduates enroll in college immediately after graduation compared to 69 percent of all high school students.1

“We’re very excited by this data,” says Michael Webb, associate vice president at JFF and report author. “Half of our students would be the first in their families to ever attend college. This is about more than improving students’ college and career success. It’s about changing families’ and communities’ view on college and how obtainable that education can be.”

Unconventional Wisdom: A Profile of the Graduates of Early College High School finds that nearly all early college high school graduates earn some college credit. In 2009, 25 percent of early college school graduates earned an associate’s degree or two years of college credit, while 44 percent earned at least one year of college credit. A substantial number of the college courses taken by early college students were in core academic areas such as math, science, social studies, and English.

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According to the study, during the 2009 school year, 70 percent of early college school students were students of color. More specifically, of the 46,493 young people enrolled in early college schools in 2009, 37 percent were Latino and 25 percent were African American (see graph to the right). Fifty-nine percent of all students were classified as eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and nearly half of all students would be the first in their family to attend college. The demographic characteristics of the students have remained relatively consistent from 2007 to 2009, with an average of nearly three-fourths of all students being students of color.

According to JFF, more than half of all early college schools are located on a college campus, with two-year colleges being the most common type of school participating in this study. Postsecondary institutions are important players in the design and day-to-day operations of early college high schools, the report notes, and nearly 75 percent of these schools partner with two-year colleges, 25 percent partner with four-year institutions, and some schools partner with both.

Unconventional Wisdom focuses on early college schools and programs that have been open for four years or more and includes “conversions,” or schools that have restructured to implement an early college design.

To read the full report, visit http://www.jff.org/sites/default/files/Unconventional_Wisdom_PDF_033011.pdf.

1According to the U.S. Department of Labor data, 69 percent of recent high school graduates nationwide were enrolled in college in fall 2008.

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Higher Education

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