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Policy Library

Increase High School Graduation and College Access with Early College High Schools

Early college high schools — specialized high schools where high school students can complete undergraduate courses and even earn degrees — have been proven through extensive research, including randomized controlled trials, to produce higher graduation rates in high school and college, better preparing students for the workforce. The Early College High School Act will expand early college high school programs to improve graduation rates and college attendance at little cost to the state.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Washington

Introduced in:

Massachusetts, New York (12)
Even if a state has enacted a policy, there may be aspects to be strengthened. We can help identify ways to improve lives in your state. Please reach out to our State Line: 1-833-STATES-1.

In The News

“[Torri] Boldery said the early college classes felt like college-level courses. ‘It was definitely more difficult, but it was more on your own. Your hand wasn’t being held,’ she said. ‘You had to get deadlines finished, and it was very much like college.’”
“Students in the ECS program—one of five in the state—have the option to complete their associate’s degree at NCC or complete the credits elsewhere. Veenema said most students have tested into the college courses around their junior year. But the option draws in students interested in a four-year school or those who want to go straight into working, allowing them to start at a higher level with a degree already under their belt.”


  • Employers
  • Students and families
  • Education advocates


None noted
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Who does this help?
This bill benefits students and families by supporting high school and college success. It can also reduce families’ college costs by allowing students to finish college degrees in less time and at less cost. Early college high schools can also help businesses by producing a better-trained workforce.
Does this require extra state investment?
Early college high schools are often run as part of existing public school structures. Partnerships with public university systems can also create efficiencies.
Does this save the state money?
Yes. 15% of high school students nationwide don’t graduate high school in four years. Of those who graduate and enter college, 33-40% will need at least one remedial course. In 2017, weekly wages for graduates with a college associate’s degree were over 17% more than for high school graduates.

Model Policy

This act shall be known as the Early College High School Act.

This act expands the availability of early college high school programs to allow more students to earn an associate’s degree and increase graduation rates for both high school and college.


(a) It is the goal of STATE to offer evidence-based early college high school programs to interested students.

(b) Accordingly, within 100 days the Department is directed to produce and post publicly a plan to expand the availability of early college high schools in STATE by 25 percent over five years.

(c) The plan may include (1) expansion of existing early college high school programs; (2) creation of new early college high school programs; (3) plans to obtain and leverage federal and foundation grant funding, and use existing state grant funds or other available state resources; and (4) any other initiatives the Department identifies that would result in an efficient expansion of early college high school program offerings. The plan should target expansion of early college high school programs by at least 5% per year.

(d) The plan should detail which actions the Department can pursue on its own without additional legislative action, and, within 60 days of the plan’s publication, the Department shall commence those actions.

(e) For aspects of the plan that would require additional action by the legislature, the Department shall include in the plan specific requests and outlines of legislative action needed, including budget requests.

(f) Definitions
  • (i) “Early college high school” as defined in this section means an evidence-based whole-school approach that provides students, including those traditionally underrepresented in post-secondary education, with the opportunity to access college-level courses and college degree credits in high school with the combined support of high school and college staff and resource.