UTEP Researcher Studies Early College High School Models

Julia Duncheon, Ph.D., assistant professor in UTEP’s Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations, will lead a study on early college high schools with a $50,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation.

Early college high schools allow students to earn up to two years of college credit at little or no cost. Nine early college high schools have opened in El Paso since 2006. Some are located on community college campuses, others are standalone, and the newest are housed in traditional comprehensive high schools.

“The challenge is that early colleges have been scaled up quickly with minimal research to guide implementation and improvement efforts,” Duncheon explained. “In particular, little to no research has compared different early college models to identify what works in what contexts and why. Stakeholders describe ‘flying by the seat of our pants.’ This project will contribute to the nascent early college literature as well as provide feedback to the schools in Region 19.”

Duncheon’s project is a mixed-methods comparative case study that explores the implementation of these three different models in Region 19.

Duncheon’s research broadly focuses on college access and equity for underserved student populations. Early college high schools are part of the broader college completion agenda, designed to enhance opportunity for students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

The funded study is part of a larger three-year project on early colleges and will be completed over the next two years.