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#AskExcelinEd: How can states jump-start college learning in high school?

• Patricia Levesque

Our parents went to a local school, worked hard and earned a high school diploma that opened doors to a career that paid for a house, put their kids through college and provided a retirement pension. Things have changed drastically. For us, the high school diploma was a stepping stone to college, typically interpreted as a four-year degree, which helped us achieve the same career and material goals. Now fast forward to our kids.

Employers in today’s global economy value a range of postsecondary credentials—industry-valued credentials, postsecondary certificates, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees—because they can each signify whether an applicant has the skills employers need. While debates in the past have dwelled on college vs. career, today’s students will need a postsecondary credential in addition to in-demand workplace skills to even begin, much less advance in, mid- or high-wage level careers.

Yet there’s a catch. Postsecondary education is expensive. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost to attend a four-year university doubled, even after inflation, between 1989 and 2016. To put that into perspective, the price of college increased almost eight times faster than wages.

While politicians and policymakers debate ways to make postsecondary learning more affordable and address crushing student debt, there is something states can do right now to help students prepare for success: jump-start postsecondary learning with college acceleration opportunities while students are still in high school. And ExcelinEd’s new playbook for state policymakers, Accelerating Students from High School to College and Careers, can help.

How Can States Accelerate Students from High School to College and Careers?

College acceleration opportunities like Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), dual enrollment, early college high schools and International Baccalaureate (IB) can help high school students prepare for college-level work while they earn valuable college credit or work toward a postsecondary credential.

Best of all, participating students are more likely to graduate high school, go on to college and complete college degrees on time. States are already investing significant resources and efforts into their college acceleration opportunities. Unfortunately, sometimes these opportunities can fall short on delivering quality and value to students or aren’t reaching all students, such as low-income, minority or rural students.

Yet, it is possible for states to accelerate all high school students toward the degree or credential of their choice. In fact, some states are already making great progress toward this end.

About the author

Patricia Levesque @levesquepat

Patricia is the Chief Executive Officer for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She served as Governor Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff for education, enterprise solutions for government, minority procurement, and business and professional regulation. Previously, Patricia served six years in the Florida Legislature in the Speakers Office and as staff director over education policy. Contact Patricia at