The Bard High School Early Colleges (BHSECs) in New York City and Newark are partnerships between school districts and Bard College that embed a college education in the liberal arts and sciences within a public high school, allowing students to earn up to 60 tuition-free college credits and an associate’s degree from Bard, concurrently with a high school diploma.
The BHSECs have an integrated academic program in the liberal arts and sciences in which college faculty (the majority of whom have Ph.D.s in their fields) teach both high school and college courses all in one building. During their first two years at BHSEC, students generally complete most of their high school requirements while at the same time developing the skills needed to succeed in rigorous college courses. Then, in what otherwise would have been 11th and 12th grades, students take a full two-year college course of study, which includes core classes in the humanities, languages, mathematics, and sciences, as well as a range of college electives.
The Bard Early College Center in New Orleans is a two-year college program embedded within the public school system. Participating students from across the city take college seminar courses in the liberal arts and sciences for half of each school day in the 11th and 12th grades at the local Bard Early College campus. Students complete up to one year of tuition-free college credits in the early college program, concurrently with a high school diploma at their high schools.
Students at the Bard Early Colleges are intellectually curious and motivated to challenge themselves with a liberal arts college education while in high school. The model has worked in New York, Newark, and New Orleans for students from diverse socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and academic backgrounds.
All Bard Early College students are selected through an interview process that is designed to ensure that applicants understand the program and want to participate. Given the high demand for available spots in incoming classes, the Bard High School Early Colleges select students through a qualitative and quantitative admission process that incorporates an individual interview, a math and writing assessment, middle school grades and middle school attendance. In New Orleans, students are selected through an individual interview and a classroom audition.
Approximately 70 percent of faculty at the Bard Early Colleges have Ph.D.s in their fields of study, and many are published scholars. Bard Early College faculty members share a deep knowledge and passion for their subjects as well as an interest in teaching younger students.
The additional costs of providing a college program in high school include professor salaries, college textbooks for students, science equipment for college-level laboratory courses, college advising services, and academic support. In order to provide writing- and laboratory-intensive classes that are truly the equivalent of those offered by liberal arts colleges, Bard's early college classes have no more than 25 students. The small class sizes help younger students succeed in the college courses, as do the academic tutoring and college counseling support. Bard relies on funding from public and private sources to ensure that these costs are not passed down to students and families.
Bard Early Colleges provide support services to help students succeed in the early college program and beyond. In addition to small classes, which allow students to develop strong relationships with professors and receive individual attention, the early college high schools have writing and math centers where students can access academic support, and a college transfer office where students can get help preparing for college life and transferring to four-year colleges. Professors also hold office hours before, during, and after school, where they work with students individually or in small groups.
More than 85 percent of students in the Bard High School Early Colleges complete an associate’s degree concurrently with a high school diploma. The majority of students who do not receive the associate's degree earn more than 50 college credits.
More than 95 percent of Bard High School Early College students matriculate at a four-year college after graduating from the early college program, and more than 90 percent of matriculating students complete their bachelor's degrees. Students can transfer their credits from the early college program to a four-year institution, reducing the time to degree completion. In recent classes, more than a third of students have finished their bachelor's degrees within three years.
Bard Early Colleges have long employed the teaching practices promoted by the Common Core. In humanities courses, students learn how to analyze and find meaning in increasingly complex texts, using evidence from the texts. Students learn to write strong arguments based on supported claims and sound reasoning, and how to conduct thorough research. Students also develop strong communication and public speaking skills through discussion-based classes and group projects. In math and science courses, students learn how to create and test hypotheses, understand assumptions, and identify solutions. By the time they graduate, students have strong analytical, critical thinking, and writing skills that help them succeed in college and beyond. These skills are precisely the ones that Common Core standards aim to impart.