NYCan Makes the Case for Early College

Every U.S. student should have a chance to earn college credit in high school.  Even with online learning, we still haven’t reached the point of universal access to a great college prep track with college credit options.  That’s why David Haglund is pushing the Students Bill of Rights in California.  It’s why Christina Grant is pushing early college in New York.
Grant directs the recently formed NYCan, the New York affiliate of 50Can.  Led by two very capable edreformers Marc Porter Magee and Ellen Winn, 50Can was formed after the demonstrated success of ConnCan founded by Alex Johnston.
NYCan just released Start College Early, Finish College Strong.  Students participating in early college programs can earn up to two years of college credit while in high school and potentially graduate with an associate’s degree.
In New York, “These programs are currently funded through $6 million in state funds, matched by a private donation.”  This program needs to be expanded in New York (and  nationwide) but this funding approach isn’t a sustainable.
There are more than 250 early college high schools in 28 states serving more than 75,000 students—but there should be five or ten times that many.  You might ask, “Why Didn’t Early College Catch On?” The short answer is money and politics.  These blended institutions cross complex organizational boundaries.  High school funding is usually less than community college funding so even with fractional funding that follows the student its may be hard to convince colleges to take the students and grant the credits.
With a strong middle school academic program, most students should be able to demonstrate readiness by the end of their sophomore or junior year.  As recommended by NCEE’s Skills Commission in America’s Choice: High Skills or Low Wages, students should be encouraged to graduate early or earn college credit.
State leaders should get behind early college particularly with the rapid expansion of online learning and the development of high support blended models.  Even with a little extra upper division funding to compensate a high school and a college collaborating on an blended early college high school, the state is likely to save money by accelerating college completion—not to mention more young people well prepared for the workforce and families saving a fortune on college tuition.
As the NYCAN blog says, “Right now, these programs are only reaching a small portion of the kids who need them most.”  Read the story of Precious and tell me why we shouldn’t dramatically expand early college.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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