In an April 24 Fox Business column, writer Christina Couch pondered the question Is Education Still Worth the Debt?. Ms. Couch noted that college tuition costs are rising at three times the rate of inflation, federal Pell Grant funding is diminishing, student loan default rates are up and many employment opportunities are down. So is a college degree really worth what we always thought was? According to the article’s expert Lauren Asher, president of Institute for College Access & Success, yes, it really is still worth the expense. While college is expensive, the unemployment rate for those without a Bachelor’s Degree is about twice as high. Students who earn a Bachelor’s Degree also enjoy a significantly higher lifetime earning capacity. Asher also makes some strong suggestions for ways students can keep a “lid” on college debt.
While Asher’s suggestions are great, I challenge educators, parents and business leaders to think outside the box and consider starting an Early College High School in your community. For thousands of American high school students, Early College High School is a great way to maximize college credit hours earned and minimize debt. Since 2002, the partner organizations of the Early College High School Initiative have started or redesigned 240+ schools serving more than 75,000 students in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The schools are designed so that low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree—tuition free.
EDWorks, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, is one of only thirteen partners in the United States offering supports to schools and communities interested in starting early college high schools. EDWorks’ Fast Track early college high schools are changing what it means to be a college student. Through Fast Track students receive a four-year academic roadmap that accelerates them through a rigorous high school course of study and as many as 60 hours of college credit before graduation in an atmosphere with high levels of support and expectation. Over 79% of the graduates of an EDWorks’ Fast Track early college high school complete at least one year of college before graduation, saving an average of $7,605 (per College Board 2010). Many students complete 60 hours or an associate’s degree before graduation which is an even greater savings.
To learn more visit EDWorks at www.edworkspartners.org.