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New Investments Expand, Strengthen National Network of Early College High Schools

New Investments Expand, Strengthen National Network of Early College High Schools

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in December announced  $29.6 million in grants to eight organizations to expand the early college high school network to more than 25 states. Early college high schools provide traditionally underserved students with a rigorous, college-level curriculum and the opportunity to earn two years of college credit or an associate’s degree. Since 2001, the early college high school network has received more than $124 million in support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corp. of New York, WK Kellogg Foundation, Woodruff Foundation and Ford Foundation.

More than $22 million will support the creation of 42 new schools throughout the country through investments in Antioch University Seattle, the Middle College National Consortium, Portland Community College’s Gateway to College, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Georgia Department of Education and the University System of Georgia, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and the National Council of La Raza. A $7 million investment in Jobs for the Future (JFF), which leads the implementation of the network, will expand the technical assistance available for the network and help establish a system to monitor the progress of young people enrolled in these schools.

Early college high schools are designed to increase high school graduation rates, as well as the number of underserved youth who achieve a postsecondary education. According to a 2003 study by the Manhattan Institute, one-third of all ninth graders will fail to graduate from high school and two-thirds of those who do graduate will leave unprepared for college success. Just half of African American and Latino youth earn their diploma in four years and fewer than 20 percent of those who graduate are ready for college. That number is even lower for American Indian youth, who have the lowest college completion rates in the country; only 54 percent of American Indian students graduate from high school and fewer than 3 percent of these graduates complete a four-year degree program.

“If we fail to prepare all of our young people for the 21st century economy, the economic and civic health of our nation will continue to be at risk,” said Tom Vander Ark, executive director of education, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “By investing in new early college high schools, we hope to prepare more of the students for college, work and citizenship — especially underserved youth.”

“This network is about school change,” said JFF CEO Marlene Seltzer. “It’s time to re-engineer our secondary schools. Millions of our teenage youth are being left behind every day, unprepared to study further or secure good jobs in our sink-or-swim economy. The good news is that we have school change strategies, including early college, that show real promise. Early college high schools respond to the needs of youth who would otherwise be left behind, engaging and motivating them with a strong college-preparatory curriculum that allows them to earn credits in college-level courses and prepares them for higher education.” 

For more information on the early college high school network, visit  <>. 

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