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New ERN/All4Ed Report Reimagines Transition to Higher Ed, Details How States Can Build a Fast Track to College

A new report, released today, finds that the 12 in K-12 education may be unnecessary for nearly a quarter of high school students.

The report, by Education Reform Now and the Alliance for Excellent Education, introduces two accelerated pathways for college-ready juniors that would provide meaningful access to full-time, college-level coursework, while generating savings for students, families and the state. Nearly 850,000 high school juniors currently qualify for one of these “Fast Track” pathways, 30 percent of whom come from low-income families.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, fast track pathways empower students and families to make a choice that best meets students’ academic, financial and personal needs.

“If we can expand early access to college-level work and improve credit transfer, we can save students—particularly those from low-income backgrounds—time, money, and frustration,” said report co-author Michael Dannenberg. “The three key words on which the college affordability debate should be focused are ‘time to degree’.”

The primary suggested new pathway would allow students to either enroll in a full-time sequence of college-level coursework in high school, enabling them to graduate with at least a year’s worth of college credit that would be recognized at all in-state institutions; the second would offer students the option to graduate high school early—before 12th grade—with the reward of a scholarship that reduces their full-time college costs at in-state public colleges.

Speeding up postsecondary education time to degree could save students, institutions and taxpayers substantial sums—savings that could be reinvested to improve high school curricula for advanced students and help other students working to get on-track to graduate college and career ready.

The report finds that states could capture as much as $7.2 billion in gross savings from their higher education budgets for students who do not need to enroll in a fifth or sixth year of college because of fast track pathways.

“Finding the right fit for students based on preparation and aspiration increases student success and saves time and money,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, who has implemented versions of these pathways in her state. “When students display college readiness while in high school, it makes sense to accelerate their college timeline. That’s what the Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship does, as well as other early college models that incent thoughtful fast-track models.”

Read the full report here or watch the animated video explaining the report.


Education Reform Now is a national think tank and advocacy organization that develops and drives forward bold, new ideas that can transform the American public education system from pre-school to and through higher education to better serve all students, especially low-income students and students of color.

The Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those underperforming and those historically underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.