Report Confirms Early College High School Students Much More Likely to Earn a College Degree

Washington, D.C. – Early College high school students are significantly more likely to enroll in college and earn a degree than their peers, according to the results of an updated study by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Some 23 percent of students received an associate’s degree within two years compared with 2 percent for those attending other high schools.

Early College, Continued Success: Early College High School Initiative Impact, a multi-year study of schools in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative, was first issued in June 2013. The update is based on an additional year of postsecondary data. The students were in 9th grade during the 2005-06, 2006-2007 or 2007-2008 academic years, and followed for up to eight years in some cases.

The foundation launched the initiative in 2002 to increase opportunities for underserved students to earn a postsecondary credential. Since then, more than 240 Early Colleges have opened in the United States. Early Colleges partner with colleges and universities to offer high school students the chance to earn an associate’s degree, or up to two years of college credits toward a bachelor’s degree, during high school at little or no cost.

The initial analysis showed Early College students were significantly more likely to earn an associate’s degree than their peers. However, the youngest students were only one year out of high school – too soon for peers to have earned a two-year degree.

“With the most recent data, all students in the study would have had at least two years after high school to earn an associate’s degree if they progressed on a traditional timeline,” said Andrea Berger, a principal researcher at AIR. “Even with this extra year, 23 percent of Early College students earned an associate’s degree, compared with 2 percent of their peers from other high schools.”

Overall, 81 percent of Early College students enrolled in college, compared with 72 percent of comparison students. During the study period, 25 percent of Early College students earned a college degree (typically an associate’s degree), as compared with only 5 percent of comparison students. The authors noted that students in the study were between two and four years out of high school so many would not have had time to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

To read the full report, visit

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit

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