Graduating high school doesn't always mean that students are ready for college. To address this fact, the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy has released a new policy brief that provides one concrete way to help prepare students: early college programming in high schools. The report is part of a larger research project, Roadmap to Expanding Opportunity, which the Rennie Center is conducting in partnership with the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center to identify and cost out key strategies for improving students' access to educational resources and opportunities.
In this latest policy brief, the Rennie Center explores how students from groups that are underrepresented in college benefit especially from early college programming, as they may lack familiarity with the academic expectations of college courses. Early college programming can create that familiarity by allowing students to experience the rigor of college courses and get a feel for a college campus environment while they are still supported by their high schools. These programs can also give students a head start on completing college by providing duel-credit opportunities, in which a student gets credit towards both high school graduation and towards a college degree.
The Rennie Center highlights three examples of early college programming happening already in Massachusetts, including the costs involved and how they are administrated and developed. Costs range from just over $4,000 to about $11,000 per student, and the programs had between 6 and 60 students participating. Each program format was different, with some providing college courses at the high school, and others letting students enroll in courses at nearby community colleges. The different types of programs highlighted in the report show just how flexible the concept of "early college programming" can be.
Overall, the brief provides a valuable, specific look at what some schools have done already that other schools can learn from and build on to expand these types of opportunities to even more students. College readiness is becoming increasingly essential, and engaging with college curriculum and expectations earlier can help a wider variety of students succeed.