The 10 Early Colleges were located in five states throughout the country: 5 in urban areas, 2 in mid-sized cities, and 3 in small towns. Eight of the 10 Early Colleges were located on college campuses. Seven had a two-year public college partner, two had a four-year public college partner, and one had both.
The sample consists of general education high school students. About half (51.8%) of the Early College group was female vs. 55% of the comparison group. Minority students comprised 52.4% and 53.6% of the intervention and comparison groups, respectively. In addition, 30.7% of the intervention group was first-generation college going vs. 34.4% of the comparison group. Low income students comprised 46.5% of the intervention group vs. 42.3% of the comparison group. None of these differences was statistically significant.
On average, 49 percent of the students in the study’s Early Colleges were minority, with a range of 12 to 100 percent minority.12 Three schools served a student population that was at least 80 percent Hispanic or African American. On average, 44 percent of the students in the Early Colleges were low income (i.e., eligible for the free and reduced-price lunch program, FRPL) with a range of 9 to 99 percent.
Six Early Colleges were district-run schools, and the remaining four were charter schools. Most of the schools also had a focus in addition to providing opportunities to earn college credit: five had a STEM focus, and two had a teacher preparation focus. The Early Colleges offered a wide array of supports, with all 10 Early Colleges providing tutoring and college preparatory and access information that highlighted scholarships and other financial aid information. In addition, some of the Early Colleges offered advisories, summer, evening, and weekend classes, extended school days, and/or block scheduling. In terms of the college coursework, seven Early Colleges had course sequences that allowed students to earn at least two years of college credit, two Early Colleges allowed students to earn up to one year of college credit, and one Early College allowed students to earn at least some college credit.
The comparison students in the study attended 272 different high schools. The control schools were generally much larger than the Early Colleges. At the control schools, AP courses seemed to be more prevalent than dual enrollment as a strategy for students to earn college credit. The majority of the students who did not attend Early Colleges enrolled in larger high schools with larger minority and low-income student populations. Those schools provided fewer academic supports (e.g., tutoring) and a less direct focus on college readiness for all students.
Support for implementation
All but one of the Early Colleges had college instructors, rather than qualified high school instructors, teaching college courses.