Highlights of Early College High School Enrollments and Outcomes

By Aimee Evan (guest blogger) Early College High Schools (ECHSs) are intended to bridge high school and college by creating a hybrid school that combines both high school and postsecondary experiences. ECHSs are not programs per se; rather, they are whole school reform models that combine grades 9-12 and postsecondary into one institution.  Most ECHSs are designed to serve students that are underrepresented in higher education—those from low-income families, racial/ethnic minorities, and first generation college students. According to the Early College High School Initiative, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation[1], more than 40,000 students attended early college high schools:

  • Three-fourths of the students enrolled in early college high schools were students of color;
  • Thirty-two schools served students who previously had dropped out of high school or were at risk of dropping out;
  • The majority of students in early college high schools were the first in their families to enroll in college; and
  • Nearly 60% of early college students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch

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The Early College High School Initiative began in the 2002-03 school year. In 2006, the first three schools granted diplomas to 115 students. In 2007, more than 900 students graduated from 18 early college schools. Of these early college graduates:

  • 85% earned at least a semester of transferable college credit. 10% earned two full years of college credit or an Associate’s degree;
  • More than 60% were accepted to four-year colleges, exceeding national rates for similar populations; and
  • More than 250 early college graduates have earned merit-based college scholarships. Five have earned the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, awarded to 1,000 high-achieving, low-income students each year.

Guest Author: Aimee Evan is a senior research associate at Quill Research Associates, LLC. A former Teach for America middle school teacher, Aimee is a research and evaluation specialist with expertise in creating data-driven professional learning communities.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.


[1] Early College High School Initiative: A Portrait in Numbers.

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