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Can Middle College High School Positively Impact the Community College?

The EvoLLLution | Can Middle College High School Positively Impact the Community College?
Middle college high schools improve accessibility to career-readiness programming for young students, while introducing them to a postsecondary environment and creating a positive association that could lead to future enrollments.

Emerging from the high school reform attempts within communities were the first early/middle college high schools. The idea of a high school located on a college campus evolved (Cullen, 1988; Moed, 1988), and the concept known as the middle college high school was initiated in 1972 (Lieberman, 2004). The majority of the middle college high schools are located on—or in close proximity to—a community college campus.

The middle college high school provides students a workable, intriguing and accessible way to initiate a career, thus eliminating two years of school (Donahoo, 2002). Some middle college high schools incorporate career components for students to gain a successful work-related opportunity (Cunningham & Wagonlander, 2000; Lieberman, 1975; 1986). Janet Lieberman, along with the New York Board of Education and LaGuardia Community College, collaborated to establish the first middle college high school in 1974. The school’s initial design was to meet the current and future academic needs of students who may drop out of high school (National Consortium for Middle College High Schools, 2003). So, how does housing a middle college high school on a community college campus benefit the community college?

Student participants of transition programs have a better understanding of college expectations, and therefore are more likely to continue college enrollment, are likely to be successful in subsequent coursework, and are more likely to earn a college certificate or degree (Barnett, 2011; Struhl & Vargas, 2012). These middle college high school students produce a lucrative pipeline of community college students that are academically ready to pursue their postsecondary education. The dynamics of a transition or high school reform program like the middle college high school aids the high school student as they develop into a college student and become acclimated to the college environment, which fosters confidence and desire to be successful in college (Barnett, 2011).  This desired success can be identified as persistence which is a key strategic goal for the community college. As the middle college high school produces persistent college-ready students and they continue as community college students, community college completion rates improve and this improvement potentially draws attention from the community college leaders and state policy makers.

Overall, this type of transition program creates high-level educational experiences and a better composition of students ready for higher education and the workforce (ACTE, n.d.).

The community college is the institution that offers degrees and certificates to meet the needs of the communities where they are located. The majority of community colleges are funded by public taxes. They collaborate with local businesses and organizations to meet the employment needs of the area. Based on this information, the economics of the community require an education beyond the high school diploma (Hogan et al., 2013). The demand for highly educated workers determines the need for the best academic programs (Grusky et al., 2013). The middle college high school provides visibility for the community college and can support the overall vision/mission of the college within the community it serves. Jobs for the Future, a non-profit research organization has not only been taking a look at the successes of the middle college high school reform program, but also the enrollment, persistence and outcomes of the higher education institution students as well.

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Association for Career and Technical Education. (n.d.). What is career and technical education? In CTE Research. Retrieved

Barnett, E. (2011). Validation experiences and persistence among community college students. The Review of Higher Education, 34(2), 193-230.

Cullen, C, & Moed, M. (1988). Serving high-risk adolescents. In J.E. Lieberman (ed.), Collaborating with high schools: New directions for community colleges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Cunningham, C. L. and Wagonlander, C. S. (2000), Establishing and Sustaining a Middle College High School. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2000: 41–51. doi:10.1002/cc.11105.

Donahoo, S. (2002). Middle college high schools: Bridging the gap between high school and college. Parent News: Jan/Feb. Vol (), page.

Grusky, D. B., Bird, B. R., Rodriguez, N., & Wimer, C. (2013). How much protection   does a college degree afford? The impact of the recession on recent college graduates. Philadelphia, PA: The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Hogan, R., Chamorro‐Premuzic, T., & Kaiser, R. B. (2013). Employability and career success: Bridging the gap between theory and reality. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 6(1), 3-16.

Lieberman, J. E. (1986). Middle College: A ten year study. New York, NY: City University of New York, La Guardia Community College.

Lieberman, J. (2004). The early college high school concept: Requisites for success. Boston: Jobs for the Future. Available from

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Struhl, B., & Vargas, J. (2012, October). Taking college courses in high school: a strategy for college readiness. Retrieved from