Early college high school model

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • High schools partner with local postsecondary institutions to allow students to take up to two years of for-credit courses
  • Some programs allow students to earn an associate’s degree while completing high school
  • Seeks to ease the transition to postsecondary education, particularly for underrepresented and low-income students
Target Population
High school-aged children
Cost per Participant
$955 per student/year

Evidence and impacts


Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development

  • Increased postsecondary enrollment
  • Increased postsecondary degree attainment
  • Lowered likelihood to be placed in developmental education

Best practices in implementation

  • Facilitate partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and universities to identify and recruit students, instructors, and courses that align with the program’s goals.
  • Set clear criteria when evaluating and selecting course offerings, including appropriate levels of rigor, alignment with college readiness standards, and ensuring that they are part of a course of study leading to postsecondary degrees and credentials with labor market value.
  • Incorporate both academic and social skill development into the program, including academic tutoring and advising, and workshops on time management, study skills, self-advocacy, and more.
  • Provide students with support in formally transitioning to college, including guidance on applications, completing financial aid forms, and navigating a new community.
  • Offer program instructors regular professional development and collaboration opportunities, especially on how to leverage student and teacher data to inform instruction.
  • Launch recruitment efforts for middle school students, with the goal of enrolling students in college preparatory courses as early as 9th grade.
  • Invest in curriculum coaches and/or managers, who can provide guidance on instructional changes and implementations within schools and colleges, as well as ongoing programmatic and administrative support across the partnering schools and college as the program grows.