Early college students outperform college-age classmates

November 23, 2009 - The prospect of high school students sitting in community college classes was worrisome to faculty and college leaders when North Carolina's first early colleges opened in 2005. Questions were raised about the maturity of high school students, their ability to do the work and their capacity for the kind of independence that college demands.

Now, data from the North Carolina Community College system about student performance suggests those kinds of worries were unfounded. In fact, early college high school students tend to outperform the college-age students they're in class with. With few exceptions, the grades achieved by the early college students last year were, on average, better than students who had enrolled after graduating  from high school.

Including all college courses taken by early college students on community college campuses, 75 percent received a passing grade of C or better. For all other students in community college courses, 70 percent earned a C or better.

In all, the 6,900 students who were enrolled in the 55 early college high schools last year that were partners with the state's community colleges took a total of 23,771 classes -- or an average of about 3.5 college classes per student.  The average number of courses taken per student was even greater when looking only at core academic classes, which in early college high schools are generally taken by seniors, juniors and to a lesser extent, sophomores. Yet even including 10th graders, early college students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades last year took an average of four college courses each in subject areas that included English, foreign language, math, science and social science.

In terms of performance, early college high school students received better grades, on average, than college-age students in all the core academic areas.

college-course chart c or better
Early college students also outperformed other students in English, foreign language and math, when looking at B-or-better performance:

college-course chart b or better
Looking at individual early colleges that were among the first to open, in 2005 and 2006, 13 of 20 with data that's limited to their schools -- nearly two thirds -- had average grade performance that exceeded that of college-age students. Seven of the eight early colleges that were the first to open, in 2005, and that also have grade performance data limited to their schools outperformed grade averages for college-age students.


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