A college degree is increasingly essential to earning a living wage in the U.S., but only 13% of low-income students attain this vital credential. Many economically disadvantaged students enter college academically unprepared, financially unstable, and unfamiliar with college culture, increasing the likelihood that they will drop out before completing their degree.
Working toward a college degree during high school, for free, via partnerships between high schools and local colleges can help low-income and minority students attain post-secondary degrees by helping them overcome the academic, cultural, and financial barriers to college completion. Studies show that early college high school students are 10% more likely to graduate from high school and 20% more likely to attain a post-secondary degree than their demographically similar peers. Low-income students who attend these high schools are 10 times more likely to complete a postsecondary degree; students of color are 8.5 times more likely.
One such program, Jobs for the Future’s Early College High School, works with school districts to integrate rigorous, credit-bearing college courses into high school curricula. It also facilitates partnerships among colleges, high schools, and local employers. To date, the Early College High School program has served over 80,000 students in 280 schools across the United States. The average per-student cost of the Jobs for the Future Early College Design program ranges from $480 – $535, as reported by the nonprofit. We estimate that one additional college degree (AA or BA) costs $2,410 – $2,670. Over time, Jobs for the Future’s implementation costs are designed to sunset, as existing public funding streams sustain the program.
If you are interested in preparing students to attain post-secondary educational success, look for models that simultaneously address the academic, financial, and sociocultural barriers that low-income students face on the path to completing college. For example, promising models include strong partnerships with local colleges and other businesses in the community.
For more information, see our Pathways to Student Success, pages 48-56.