How Early College High Schools Improve Higher Ed Completion

October 6, 2015

University of California, Berkeley student Deep Dave is a double major in computer science and economics who has completed 68 college credits. What’s so unique about Deep? He’s only 18 years old.

Deep is a graduate of an innovative early college high school that allowed him to earn a tuition-free associate’s degree and enter the University of California, Berkeley with 68 transferred college credits. He holds a Bard College Associate in Arts degree, which he earned at no cost to him or his family from Bard High School Early College Newark (BHSEC Newark), an early college high school operated as a partnership between Bard College, a selective nonprofit liberal arts college, and Newark Public Schools. 

“When I got to Berkeley, I realized that I had been doing this type of work all along,” said Deep. “I was extremely fortunate to have built this platform at Bard High School Early College Newark, which has truly launched me and prepared me for what lies ahead.”

BHSEC Newark opened in 2011 through a partnership between Bard College and Newark Public Schools and with the support of then-Mayor Cory Booker and the Foundation for Newark’s Future. The Foundation for Newark’s Future was established to distribute Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift intended to dramatically improve educational outcomes in Newark.

The school’s graduates are continuing on to four-year colleges and universities, including Rutgers University, Bard College, Wesleyan University, University of California, Berkeley, Rochester Institute of Technology, Seton Hall University, and Fairfield University. This is in a city where the high school graduation rate in 2014 was 68.6% and only 13% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher.

BHSEC Newark – like its sister Bard Early College campuses in New York City, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Baltimore – offers students the transformative opportunity to earn up to 60 transferable college credits and a tuition-free associate’s degree within the four years of high school. 

BHSEC Newark—one of the bright spots in Newark’s recent history of education reform—is based on the premise that many high-school-aged students are interested in and capable of taking a rigorous college course of study, and that doing so in a supported, tuition-free environment, will help students complete college degrees without crippling loan debt.

Deep’s class, the BHSEC Newark Class of 2015, demonstrated the validity of this proposition. Seventy two percent of this inaugural class earned associate’s degrees from Bard College alongside their high school diplomas; 94% of the class earned high school diplomas and college credits.

The school’s graduates are continuing on to four-year colleges and universities, including Rutgers University, Bard College, Wesleyan University, University of California, Berkeley, Rochester Institute of Technology, Seton Hall University, and Fairfield University. This is in a city where the high school graduation rate in 2014 was 68.6% and only 13% of the population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The more than 300 early college high schools across the country are improving student achievement at the secondary school level and addressing some of the most difficult challenges facing our higher education system, specifically around college readiness, access, affordability, and completion.

A recent study conducted by Metis Associates found that Bard High School Early College students completed bachelor's degrees at a 31% higher rate than comparison students who attended traditional public high schools. Studies on other early college models, including an American Institutes for Research experimental study, have yielded similarly impressive results.

Innovative approaches to postsecondary education like early college high schools are needed if we are to move the needle on college completion and workforce preparation in the United States and make the American Dream a reality for the next generation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Clara Haskell Botstein is Associate Vice President, Bard Early Colleges.

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