Programs such as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school that allow students to complete college-level course work during high school are effective and increasingly popular models for improving student access, affordability, and completion of college. Such programs are particularly important for and effective at improving outcomes for students from low-income families and students of color.
These programs, collectively known as “college in high school” programs, go by many names, but at their core they consist of a partnership between a school district and an institution of higher education. The partnerships provide high school students college course experience that leads to college credit they can apply toward a recognized college degree or postsecondary credential.
At a time when postsecondary completion rates are low and higher education debt is high, college in high school programs increase postsecondary credential completion and affordability by creating the academic momentum research shows improves students’ college access and success. For example, dual- enrollment students immediately enroll in college after graduating from high school at a rate that is 19 percentage points higher than the national average. Moreover, students of color who attend early college high schools are nearly ten times more likely to obtain a college degree than students of color who attend traditional high schools.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, encourages states and school districts to consider college in high school programs as key strategies for preparing students for college and careers. For fiscal year 2019, Title I of ESSA received a $100 million boost, for a total of $15.86 billion in funding. As school districts explore options for improving students’ college and career readiness, they can use this Title I funding boost to support college in high school programs.
Title I provides money to school districts that have high percentages of students from low-income families. College in high school programs are allowable uses of funding for the following three Title I programs:
- Schoolwide Programs—Generally, schools that serve a student population where at least 40 percent of the students come from low-income families may use their Title I funds to implement a schoolwide program to improve education for all students. Secondary schools operating schoolwide programs can use these funds to increase access to advanced course work and college in high school programs.
- Targeted Assistance Schools—Targeted assistance programs provide services to individual students in Title I schools who have been identified as low-achieving or at-risk of becoming low-achieving. Secondary schools operating a targeted assistance program may use funds to run dual- or concurrent-enrollment programs for eligible students.
- Direct Student Services—State education agencies may reserve 3 percent of their Title I funds to award grants to school districts to provide students access to advanced courses and postsecondary-level instruction and examinations, among other things. School districts serving high percentages of schools identified for support and improvement receive priority for these grants.
In addition to ESSA Title I funding, college in high school programs are allowable uses of funds under Title II for professional development, Title III for English language learners, and the money all school districts will receive through the Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants Program.
With adequate funding and support, college in high school programs are effective strategies for improving college and career readiness for all students, and particularly for those historically underserved.
To learn more about college in high school programs, watch the video below.
Rachel Bird Niebling is director of policy development and federal government relations at the Alliance for Excellent Education.
Alex Perry is the coordinator of the College in High School Alliance.
Featured photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action