President Obama Signals Higher Education Initiatives, Highlights Early College Effort

As part of a national speaking tour focused on Middle Class jobs, President Obama told audiences that he would be unveiling higher education-related initiatives over the coming months. At the same time, he singled out early college initiatives as the kind of innovation that could be effective in improving college graduation rates and reducing student costs.

At Knox College on July 24, the President pledged that “in the coming months, I will lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for middle-class students and their families.” Later in the day, while speaking at the University of Central Missouri, he indicated that he is in a position to lay out initiatives for higher education reform. He declared, “I’m in a position to lay out what’s going to be an aggressive strategy to shake up the system to make sure that middle-class students, working-class students, poor kids who have the drive and the wherewithal and want to get a good college education, they can get it without basically mortgaging their entire future.”

At the latter speech, the President singled out the Summit Technology Academy, which now hosts the University of Central Missouri’s Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC), as a model for helping students graduate more quickly with lower student loan debt. The MIC was designed in a collaborative effort that included the University of Central Missouri, the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, the Metropolitan Community College, and a number of local business partners. The MIC allows qualified high school juniors to take college credit courses that permit them to graduate from high school with an Associate’s Degree. Afterward, those students can complete their Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Central Missouri in two years.

A recent American Institutes for Research (AIR) study revealed that high school-college partnerships can have a positive impact, on high school graduation rates, college enrollment, and college graduation rates. AIR studied the impact of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI), which was launched in 2002. ECHSI offers underserved students an opportunity to earn an Associate’s Degree or two-years of college credits while in high school.

Major findings included:

  • 86% of ECHSI students graduated from high school compared to 81% of those in the comparison group who were not involved in ECHSI.
  • 80% of ECHSI students enrolled in college vs. 71% of those in the comparison group.
  • 22% of ECHSI students earned a college degree (usually an Associate’s Degree) vs. 2% of those in the comparison group.      

Overall, the early data for such initiatives appears to be promising. This data suggests that such initiatives may have the potential to provide students with significant financial savings while pursuing Associate’s Degrees and Bachelor’s Degrees.





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