How To Get Started

If you are interested in starting a California Early or Middle College High School, CCEMC has the resources, knowledge, and support to guide you through this process. Please contact us for further information:

President: Sherry Balian, Principal

MCHS @ San Joaquin Delta College



Early College Development & Preparation Steps


Sherry Balian


The creation of any new school be it elementary, middle or high school can be daunting, however the development of an early college high school brings with it unique challenges not faced with traditional sites.  An early college, to be successful, must have formal collaboration between the school district(s) and the postsecondary institution, often a community college.  The two entities must decide issues such as determining college readiness of students, student selection, how college fee’s will be handled, which college courses students will be allowed to complete, and how a high school student will be integrated into a college environment.  Why would a school district and a postsecondary institution entertain opening an early college?  Because of the amazing results early colleges are obtaining across the nation.  According to a study by the Columbia University’s Teachers College, students who participate in a dual enrollment program are more likely to graduate from high school, transitions to a four-year college, less likely to need basic skills courses in college and more likely to persist in postsecondary education and to accumulate more college credits.  Dual enrollment can be the “lifesaver” for social-economically disadvantaged students and students whose ethnicity is under-represented at four-year institutions because it provides students with a college experience while in high school which allows students to understand that they have the ability to be a successful college student.  Early colleges are also a “lifesaver” for those students who have found school to be less than a welcoming environment; those student s who do not fit-in.  These students often find an early college to be the first school where they have a sense of belonging and find that they are finally living up to their academic potential.

An early college high school can be defined as a collaborative effort between a school district and a postsecondary institution where a clear plan is in place and high school students can earn 30 to 60 college transferable units along with a high school diploma.  Numerous early college models are available including five, four and two year models.  The common thread on the success of these programs is serious planning before opening, strong collaboration between school district and community college, adopting design principles, and a high school/college plan that provides students with a pathway to gain substantial college transferable units.

This document will share a preliminary list of action steps needed to be considered before opening an early/middle college.  Some steps are relatively easy and others will need serious consideration before moving forward.  It is strongly suggested that a coach or consultant work with the Community College and School District during the implementation stage.

Budgetary Considerations

Planning costs to be considered:

  • Professional Development to support planning (conferences, workshops, study sessions)
  • Release time for staff working on development of early college
  • Consultant
  • Travel cost (retreats, visitations to existing schools)
  • Outreach and public relations to support development of early college
  • Determination of budget (what will each institution cover and/or share)

School Start-Up and Operating Cost

  • Decision on location of school
  • Decision on structure of school, will the early college be a comprehensive high school or will it be a program within an existing high school, two-year, four-year, etc.
  • High school staff needed both certificated, classified and administrative
  • Level of funding needed to operate the early college
    • ADA allocations (number of students x ADA compared to anticipated  operating costs – is there a shortfall and if so how will it be covered)
  • College course fees
  • Summer college course fees
  • College textbooks
  • Other college fees (laboratory, etc.)
  • Contract college courses (this is one option for students to obtain college units)
  • Facility lease
  • Office expenses
  • Capital outlay
  • AVID expenses (if AVID is adopted as part of the design principles)

Costs Associated with Early College Located on College Campus

  • Room cost
  • Utility cost
  • Janitorial services
  • Lunch service

This is broad list of expenses, each district and community college may need to add costs associated with their institutions.  Some cost may not be an issue to either institution and/or might be an issue to one institution but not the other.  A critical factor associated with the budgetary concerns is to have buy-in from stakeholders; it is critical that both the school districts and community college are partners in the development of the budget and development of the early college.  Some budgetary considerations will be carried by the school district(s) and/or the community college.  This division of expenditures should be decided before moving forward; this could be included in the formal memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Early College Design Concepts

School Autonomy

  • What level of autonomy will be granted to the early college:  governance, staffing, curriculum, access to student college data, professional development, school year, and school day/hours

Determine Mission Statement

  • Collaborate with community college on development of statement, align with Common Core and Student Success Act

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

  • Develop a MOU that outlines the specific roles and responsibilities of each organization entering into the MOU


  • A collaborative model has proven to be effective which could include representation from the district office, administration from the college, both faculty from high school and college, classified from both high school and college, community groups, parents and students


  • Will the early college include a theme such as STEM, teacher prep, Arts, etc.  This is not necessary but numerous early colleges do incorporate a theme
  • Will the early college have a SB1440 focus


  • Will the early college be located on a college campus or will it be housed on a high school campus
  • If on a college campus with the school have an exclusive facility or be housed where available

Structure for Collaboration – School, College and Community

  • Develop an Advisory Committee comprised of high school staff, college staff and community members to guide work – this committee could also include parents and students
  • College Liaison assigned by community college to work with early college high school

Academic Plan

  • Develop a four-year plan that outlines both high school and college courses students are to complete prior to graduation.  Plan will clearly show the number of college transferable unit students can conceivably earn by the end of their senior year.
  • Decide if college courses will be allowed to replace high school graduation required courses
  • Decide if summer school, both high school and college will be part of the academic plan
  • Assure completion of A-G requirements

Design Principles

  • Adopt design principles that will lead the school to success.  Items to consider:

-College Readiness

-Student Support

-Professional Development

-Best Practices

-Leadership      (Sample Design Principles)

Student Recruitment and Selection

  • Decide method of student selection, lottery, application, recommendation, etc.
  • Decide target population
  • Marketing of early college

Ongoing Student Support

  • Establish structures to provide students with ongoing support
  • Tutoring
  • Learning Communities
  • Counseling both high school and college
  • Mentoring
  • College Seminar Course and/or scaffolding of instruction to assure student success in college courses
  • AVID
  • College and career ready
  • Support for student transition to four-year institution and our career training


  • Analyze college course completion data to determine student needs
  • Analyze State Testing to meet needs of students
  • Analyze college readiness testing (SAT, ACT, EAP etc.) to modify instruction

The above list is not all inclusive however it is a starting point.  The effort, time, energy and expenditure associated with opening an early college high schools will provide students with engaging educational experience



Jobs for the Future, Early College High Schools Resources for Intermediaries:  Developing a Budget for Early College High School

Susan Goldberger and Leslie Haynes, Part of a Series of Design Briefs on Models for Early College High Schools, Designing and Financing an Integrated Program of College Study

Jobs for the Future, Final Report to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Early College High School Initiative

Jobs for the Future, Encouraging and Evaluating the Engagement of Early College High Schools with Communities and Higher Education Institutions