North Carolina’s Early College

In order to save students money, a few schools are now experimenting with a three-year bachelor’s degree. But another, even more efficient, tactic might be to let high school students start college early. An article by Lauren Roth at the Virginian-Pilot indicates that:

North Carolina has 70 Learn and Earn schools… that blend high school and college at no cost to students or school districts. Such schools, which operate in 24 states and the District of Columbia, are aimed at first-generation college students and other groups underrepresented in higher education, such as minorities and the poor.

[To earn college credits] students gave up sports teams, band and technology electives.

“It may not benefit us now, but it’ll benefit us later,” James [McClain, a sophomore] said.

Does it work? Well, maybe. Under the current arrangement, North Carolina pays the cost of all college credits students earn while they’re still in high school. The article reports that:

Early college high schools in North Carolina have dropout rates one-fifth the size of other high schools. About 60 percent of the schools outperform other high schools on state exams, according to a February report from Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based organization that sponsors early college high schools and work force programs.

But the point of starting college early has to do with finishing it early, too. It’s unclear if this actually happens. Do students actually go to college and leave successfully? So far it looks like all North Carolina knows is that the high school dropout rate is lower than at other North Carolina schools. Good work, I guess, but clearly North Carolina needs to do more.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer