An examination of Indiana Early College High School students who attended Purdue University between 2006 and 2015

Lisa P Kirkham, Purdue University


Early College High Schools (ECHS) are an educational intervention designed to promote rigor in high school education along with increased post-secondary access and success for disadvantaged students. Based on evidence, the Early College High School program is effective at helping students who traditionally are not in college-bound tracks find their way into that path. ECHSs provide a comprehensive, rigorous high school experience allowing students to earn an associate’s degree along with the high school diploma. Regarding structure, the ECHS is an entire high school, with all students earning college credits. Examining post-secondary experiences of students participating in Early College High School programming is necessary to understand the full impacts of this phenomenon. To date, no studies have done so. This work begins the process by describing outcomes and experiences of students from seven endorsed Early College High Schools in Indiana who chose to attend Purdue University between the years of 2006 and 2015. Because little is known about the post-secondary experiences of ECHS students, this study is a non-experimental sequential mixed methods study that uses descriptive and process analytical methods. Success of the ECHS intervention in the high school domain is well documented. Analysis of the outcomes of the intervention in the post-secondary domain is vital to determine a complete assessment of the ECHS programming. his study examined post-secondary choices and factors that impact two outcomes, time-to-degree and graduation rate, for the 2006-2011 cohort and 2012-2015 cohort. Time to degree was defined as number of semesters needed to earn the first baccalaureate degree, with timely graduation being within six years, and graduation rate had four categories: graduated, voluntarily withdrawn, dropped by the university, and enrolled still persisting to graduation. Four factors that influence outcomes were selected because of their potential impact of time-to-degree and graduation rate. The four factors were demographic information (gender and race/ethnicity), readiness for college defined by SAT/ACT scores, and change of degree option (CODO). This information is compared to the Purdue cohort matriculating at the same time to provide comparison to the typical Purdue student. In addition to secondary data obtained from the Office of the Registrar, a survey was administered to ECHS students on campus. The survey questioned students’ sense of preparation and benefit from the ECHS for the Purdue experience. Individual interviews were held to gain personal insights into perceptions of preparation and benefits of the Early College High School program on the Purdue experience. The mixed method approach provided greater strength to the study by providing answers to questions raised in student secondary data (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). For example, why did ECHS students elect to stay longer when they were able to graduate earlier due to earned credits prior to matriculation? Results showed that the Indiana ECHS schools in this study sent students to Purdue University that were able to graduate at approximately the same rates and times as traditional Purdue students. These ECHS students did not change majors nearly as often as their Purdue peers. While SAT scores showed ECHS students not as perhaps college ready as the typical Purdue student in the same cohort, graduation rate performance indicates that was not a hindrance to success at Purdue. A growing body of literature supports the positive effects of the program at the high school level. This small study fills a gap by identifying the positive effects of Indiana ECHS programming at the post-secondary level and provides four recommendations to the Early College High School leadership for increasing student success at universities similar to Purdue.




Hirth, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Education Policy|School administration

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