Meeting future workforce needs demands that at least 55 percent of working age adults in Hawaii hold a postsecondary degree or certificate. Yet right now we stand at a mere 43 percent. So what strategies or interventions can get more young people to and through college? Early college high schools hold great promise, and Hawaii’s first cohort of early college high schools was just launched yesterday.
In the early college model, high school students take college level courses for which they receive both high school and college credit. Often these courses are given on the high school campus so that barriers like transportation are removed. The early college model is most powerful when the courses: 1) target low income and first generation students, 2) are part of an articulated course sequence tied to a high demand field, and 3) are accompanied by significant student support. Powerful research shows that students are way more likely to attend and complete college after participating in an early college program.
The early college approach also requires that high schools and community colleges partner in radically new and different ways, all in service of helping the state meet its 55 by 25 goal. Yesterday, Hawaii P20 and Educate Texas’s Chris Coxon gathered leaders from the twelve high schools and their community college partners selected from a pool of 27 applicants. The schools represent urban communities such as Waipahu, Hilo, Kaimuki and Kalihi as well as rural areas like Molokai and Kohala.
Each partnership set a goal, such as every graduate holding six credits of college credit five years from now. The goals were drawn directly from an identified need. For example, Kealakehe’s principal Wilfred Murakami shared how 43 percent of his students get to college but only 14 percent matriculate for the second year. Partnerships also mapped out their student recruitment strategy and coursetaking sequence. Finally, the key people that partners need to work through and with in order to meet their goals were identified.
This is a three year project, and their success will inform the development of a statewide policy framework. We are excited to help bring these innovative programs to scale and eager to increase the number of “nontraditional” high school students that matriculate and succeed in college.