Panel Paper: Longer-Term Impacts of Early College High Schools on Postsecondary Outcomes

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 15 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kristina Zeiser, Mengli Song and Iliana Brodziak, American Institutes for Research

Led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the goal of the Early College (EC) High School Initiative is to increase college completion rates among traditionally disadvantaged students. By partnering with local colleges and universities, ECs encourage students to earn an associate’s degree or up to 2 years of college credits during high school at no or low cost to their families. Prior research has shown the promise of ECs as an effective way to promote postsecondary access and success (Edmunds, Unlu, Glennie, Bernstein, Fesler, & Arshavsky, 2017; Haxton, Song, Zeiser, Berger, Turk-Bicakci, Garet, et al., 2016); however, research has not examined impacts on students’ longer-term college outcomes

In this paper, we examine the impacts of ECs on students’ postsecondary enrollment and degree completion within 6 years of expected high school graduation (Year 10 after Grade 9 entry). The main research questions are:

  • What are the longer-term impacts of ECs on students’ postsecondary enrollment and degree completion?
  • Do EC impacts vary by student background characteristics?

Sample and Data. This study includes 10 ECs from five states that conducted randomized admission lotteries for incoming Grade 9 students between 2005-06 and 2007-08. In total, the study included 2,458 students: 1,044 treatment students who were offered admission to the ECs and 1,414 control students who were not offered admission. Student background data were obtained from ECs, participating districts, and states. Postsecondary outcome data were obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse.

Methods. Our intent-to-treat (ITT) analyses are based on a two-level hierarchical generalized linear model that considers the clustering of students within lotteries and controls for student background characteristics. By incorporating interactions between treatment status and student characteristics into the student-level model, we assess whether the EC impacts vary by student characteristics.

Results. We found statistically significant, positive EC impacts on longer-term postsecondary outcomes. For example, 84% of treatment students enrolled in college by Year 10, as compared with 77% of control students. In addition, 66% of treatment students and 47% of control students enrolled in a 2-year institution by Year 10. In contrast, the EC impact on enrollment in 4-year institutions was not significant by Year 10.

By the end of Year 10, 45% of treatment students earned postsecondary degrees, as compared with 34% of control students. This difference was largely driven by the significant EC impact on the completion of an associate’s degree or certificate (29% of treatment students vs. 11% of control students). However, the EC impact on bachelor’s degree attainment was also statistically significant (30% of treatment students vs. 25% of control students).

Our differential impact analyses revealed that the EC impact did not significantly differ by gender, race/ethnicity, or low-income status. However, impacts on enrollment in 2-year institutions and associate’s degree attainment by the end of Year 10 were significantly stronger for students with higher levels of prior achievement.

While the findings from this study cannot be generalized to the population of ECs, this study yields strong evidence of the significant and meaningful impacts of ECs on student outcomes.

Full Paper: