The Costs and Benefits of Early College High Schools
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
- How does the per-pupil cost of ECs compare with the per-pupil cost of traditional high schools?
- How do the benefits of EC programs compare to the costs?
Because the students in the follow-up study attended ECs between 2005–06 and 2010–11, our aim was to determine the costs of ECs relative to other local traditional high schools for those years. We used a hybrid approach to the cost analysis, relying on a combination of extant school-level expenditure data for ECs and traditional high schools in the same or neighboring district (in cases where the EC was an independent charter school), IPEDS data on the costs associated with college instruction, and information from interviews with district and college officials to understand any additional costs that might not be accounted for in extant spending data.
On the benefit side, we examined educational attainment outcomes to estimate the benefits of attending ECs. In particular, the impact analysis estimated the proportions of EC and non-EC students who did not attend college, attended some college but did not earn a degree, completed an associate degree without completing a bachelor’s degree, and completed a bachelor’s degree. We referred to prior research on the monetary public and private returns to obtaining a given level of postsecondary education. We then applied these postsecondary returns to the impact on postsecondary attainment to estimate the benefits of attending and EC.
Our analysis indicated that EC programs cost approximately $950 more per student per year than traditional high school programs, or $3,800 per student for the 4 years of high school. The benefits of EC resulting from the higher educational attainment of EC students amount to slightly more than $57,000. The result is a net present value (NPV) of almost $54,000 and a benefit-to cost ratio of 15.0. Even when using conservative estimates of the cost and benefits of EC, we found that the benefits substantially outweigh the cost. Monte Carlo simulations indicate that, if replicated we would fine a positive NPV with a high degree of certainty.