College In High School Alliance
Promoting Effective Transitions Between High School and College

Evidence of Success

Evidence of Success

Evidence of Success 

Early College Designs

Early college is an evidence-based strategy for increasing college readiness and success for a wide range of students, particularly those traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The most comprehensive data on the outcomes of early college students come from the national Early College High School Initiative, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched in 2002 and Jobs for the Future coordinated. The most recent data available, based on outcomes for thousands of students who attended about 100 representative early college high schools, show the model’s success (Source: Webb and Gerwin, Early College Expansion):

  • 90% of early college students receive a high school diploma compared to 78% of students nationally.*

  • 30% of early college students earn an associate’s degree or certificate with their high school diploma compared to very few nationally.

  • 94% of early college students earn transferable college credits in high school, compared to 10% of students nationally.

  • 86% of early college graduates who enroll in college after high school graduation persist to their second year, compared to 72% of college students nationally.

  • One year past high school, 21% of early college students had earned a college degree, compared to 1% of comparison students. Two years past high school, 25% of early college students had earned a degree, compared to 5% of comparison students

*Source: A random-assignment study from American Institutes for Research concludes that students who attend early college schools are significantly more likely than their peers to graduate, enroll in college and earn a degree. See: Andrea Berger et al., Early College, Early Success: Early College High School Initiative Impact Study (Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research)


There is strong evidence that dual enrollment (including concurrent enrollment) improves college transitions, persistence, and completion, especially for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. The data come from peer-reviewed studies using quasi-experimental research designs, as well as multi-institution and statewide regression correlation studies from a dozen states. Collectively, these studies show positive, statistically significant effects when high school students complete college courses, even after controlling for prior academic achievement and demographic variables. Most of these studies aggregate analysis across all forms of dual enrollment, regardless of the location, delivery method, or instructor type. Examples include:

  • Students entering four Texas public universities with dual credit were 30% more likely to earn bachelor’s degrees within six years than students who had not earned college credit in high school. Dual-credit students also were 42% more likely to complete bachelor’s degrees within four years, the traditional undergraduate time period. (Source: Justine Radunzel, Julie Noble, and Sue Wheeler, Dual-Credit/Dual-Enrollment Coursework and Long- Term College Success in Texas (Washington, DC: ACT Research and Policy, 2014)

  • A study that used a nationally representative sample of students who began postsecondary education in 2003 showed that students who took dual enrollment courses were 10% more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than the comparison group. The benefits were even greater forstudents whose parents had not attended college; they were 12% more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than the comparison group. (Source: Brian P. An, The Impact of Dual Enrollment on College Degree Attainment: Do Low-SES Students Benefit? (Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association, 2012)

  • A study that followed all 2010, 2011, and 2012 Colorado high school graduates found that students who took dual and concurrent enrollment courses were 23% more likely to enroll in college immediately following high school graduation and 9% less likely to enroll in remedial classes. Dual enrollment students also were more likely to earn higher grades in their first year of college and accumulate more credit hours by the end of their first year. (Source: Colorado Department of Higher Education, The Effects of Concurrent Enrollment on the College-Going and Remedial Education Rates of Colorado’s High School Students (Denver: Colorado Department of Higher Education, 2014).

  • The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) reviewed dozens of studies against their strict criteria and found a medium-to-large evidence base that shows positive impacts on college enrollment and completion from participating in dual enrollment. (Source: What Works Clearinghouse (2017), Transition to College Intervention Report: Dual Enrollment Programs).