Policy Factsheet

Early College Programs

Reasons for Policy

  • The strongest predictor of bachelor’s degree completion is the intensity and quality of students’ high school curriculum. 1
  • Exposing traditionally non-college-bound students to college while still in high school can demystify college and build motivation. 2
  • Earning college credit in high school lowers the long-term cost of a college degree. 3

Community Groups

  • Community Colleges
  • Local School District
  • Universities

Policy Components

  • Offer opportunities to earn college credit for coursework completed during high school, such as enrolling in classes at the college directly or taking college-level classes in high school and scoring high on standardized exams.
  • Help students at risk for dropping out meet graduation requirements and transition to post-secondary education through Middle College High School programs.

Desired Outcomes

  • Increase college enrollment and success in otherwise non-college bound students
  • Give advanced students an opportunity to enter college more prepared

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 3: Insufficient Evidence Available.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • Little is known of the overall characteristics and effects of these programs. More rigorous research is needed.2


1 Adelman, C (1999). Answers in the tool box: Academic intensity, attendance patterns, and Bachelor’s degree attainment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement.

2 Bailey, T & Karp, MM (2003). Promoting college access and success: a review of credit-based transition programs. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, Community College Research Center.

3 Orr, MT (1998). Integrating secondary schools and community colleges through school-to-work transition and education reform. Journal of Vocational Education Research, 23(2), 93-113.

4 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.