How Early College Programs Can Improve High School Graduation Rates

Nov 12, 2019 by

Across America, the cost of living is rising, but salaries remain stagnant. Employers can’t find enough skilled talent, yet college enrollment is on the decline. Meanwhile, significant income gaps continue to persist in society.

Even more troubling than low college enrollment, however, is low high school graduation rates in certain areas of the country. Although trade schools, apprenticeships, and other advanced training options can be good options for some young people who want an alternative to college, it’s still important to encourage every high school student to earn their diploma as a baseline for their future.

Education is the key to a healthy and prosperous society, but many teens today are slipping through the cracks and dropping out of high school or choosing not to pursue any additional education or training after high school.

So how can we improve high school graduation rates across the nation? Surprisingly, early college programs might be part of the solution.

Colleges and Universities Are Reaching out to High School Students

Institutions that offer traditional 4-year degree programs are struggling to bring enough students onto their campuses. To help encourage enrollment, they’re going straight to the source and offering high school students programs that incentivize them to continue their education.

One program that is showing some promise is early college and dual enrollment. Students take their high school classes during the day and take college courses later in the day, earning them college credits while they are still in high school. Some students complete their high school diploma and associate’s degree within a few weeks of one another.

This type of program has shown good results in Kern County, California, which has low college graduation rates and serves a large Latinx population. Enrollment has grown exponentially in the last few years, rising from 74 students in 2013 to 10,066 in 2019.

Students in the program pass their classes at very high rates (84-92% each term), especially compared to the average for the county. These successes in just a few short years indicate that early college programs could have a positive impact on students all over the country, especially in disadvantaged areas.

Paying for a Better Life

Many young people are beginning to doubt the value of higher education due to the high cost of traditional 4-year degrees. Graduates often struggle to find work that allows them to pay the bills and save for the future while paying off student loan debt that can soar into the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, the average debt load in the United States from student loans is around $30,000, a daunting number that can take decades to pay off.

College simply isn’t affordable for many in the United States. Because of this, some young people are choosing to skip college and enter the workforce immediately after high school to avoid debt. But it’s important to consider that when you’re paying for college, you’re paying for a better life.

Students who graduate from college have much better opportunities for finding satisfying work and earning money. They’re also more likely to have the in-demand skills employers are looking for. Instead of skipping college entirely, high school students might want to consider working for a company that sponsors education, attending a school near home, or choosing more flexible online programs.

Reaching Out to Learners

Colleges aren’t the only interests working to compel high school students to earn a degree. Many corporations are beginning to face challenges due to a lack of trained candidates for 21st-century roles they need to fill. They’re noticing that there aren’t enough students graduating with the tech and communication skills their organizations need now and in the future

Many corporations realize that the solution to these shortages is to help educate young Americans. In 2002, for example, one of the first early college programs was sponsored by the nonprofit arms of several large corporations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. The program has been very successful, helping more students to earn degrees since its inception.

These leaders reached out to disadvantaged students partially because they understood that there is untapped potential in this country that could transform the economy. These programs not only help students, but they also help businesses succeed, boosting the economy and creating even more growth.

A Fresh Start in Education

If you’ve dropped out of high school, that doesn’t mean that you can’t pursue a college degree. However, you will need to earn your high school diploma before you can apply to any university programs. Today, you can even earn your high school diploma online.

It might seem daunting to get started, but getting an education could improve your life substantially. You’ll have better job opportunities, earn more money during your lifetime, and have more opportunities in life. You just have to keep going!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.